Awhile back I wrote a post entitled “Pre-Emptive Cowardice” about people inclined to surrender their principles at the very first whiff of “trouble,” no matter how unjust, no matter how ill-conceived that alleged “trouble” might be.
A recent missive being spread anonymously around the FDNY highlights what I was talking about.
It’s a flyer titled;
A WARNING TO ALL MEMBERS
"In the EEO class, the EEO lawyer Michael Valente went apeshit and berated me in front of my men. All I did was ask a question about one of the protected rights and Valente lost it. He threatened to send me to Cassano and have me fired.
"Valente blew a gasket and lost control of himself in the class. I felt extremely uncomfortable and as a senior man, I’ve never been talked to like that in my 20 years in the Department.
"Word of advice in the EEO class, say nothing. Don’t participate. Don’t ask questions to set Valente off. EEO will bring you up on charges and you will get lifted. You will lose.
"Let’s get the word out."
THAT is a PERFECT example of “Pre-Emptive Cowardice.”
First off, you can ask ANY question in any venue...yes, even an EEO class. You CANNOT and SHOULD NOT ask any question in a derisive and/or defamatory manner, but that should be common sense.
If you feel you’ve been unfairly treated by anyone, you have every right to file an EEO complaint against them. And YES, you can even file an EEO complaint against an EEO representative.
There are no “UNPROTECTED” groups. Moreover, a man with over 20 years on this job falls into at least one of the myriad designated EEO groups, based on his age!
If you ask a legitimate question, in a legitimate, non-defamatory manner, you have every right and expectation to a legitimate and reasonable answer.
ANYTHING less, ANY disrespect and especially ANY threat/harassment on the part of the respondent is actionable, both via EEO itself and by BITS! An offensive response or reprimand to a legitimate question IS a civilly actionable offense.
When I first read the above flyer I wondered whether it might have been written by someone motivated to silence those who might legitimately question some of EEO’s policies, but the wording and the utter cluelessness about the way the entire process works led me back to accepting that it was probably written by an actual firefighter.
IF you ask a question in a derisive and defamatory manner you deserve to be ridiculed and in some instances admonished (very possibly severely) for that kind of behavior.
Since the alleged “question” that allegedly annoyed Mr. Valente was NOT repeated, I get the distinct impression that the questioner knew that it was inappropriately worded or perhaps worse.
You DO NOT have a protected “right to be an idiot.” You can certainly and, by all means, BE an idiot, but at your own risk. A defamatory statement disguised as a query is NOT a legitimate question and it CAN rise to the level of illegality, depending on how derisive or derogatory the statement is.
But IF you are threatened for merely asking a legitimate question in a decent (respectful) manner, that’s harassment and that’s a criminal action that can result in severe criminal and civil liabilities for the respondent who either over-reacts or reacts improperly. In short, if a given behavior is wrong for you to do...it's wrong for anyone.
If the above member did indeed ask a genuine and legitimate question in a decent, non-derogatory manner, he missed the opportunity for a potentially huge payout.
That’s why I suspect the query in question was neither legitimate, nor unoffensive...and it’s also almost certainly why this has been posted anonymously.
It’s also why, in my view, the above flyer is dangerous, defeatist and subversive to justice. It promotes fear and avoiding taking a stand, even when justified and that appeal to fear is amplified by this guy sending this out anonymously, as though he were too frightened to even sign onto his own thoughts!
In short, this is so antithetical to our views at Merit Matters, that we feel it could easily have been written by one of our detractors.
As I stated in my previous post about “Pre-Emptive Cowardice,” “Those worried about signing a petition or even joining Merit Matters for fear of “being put on some list” are both asking for trouble and docilely accepting a 2nd class citizenship.
“Accepting a 2nd class citizenship for one’s self is bad enough, but accepting it for future generations - for your kids and grand-kids is much worse. We owe future generations a far better fate than that.”
This kind of baseless fear-mongering does a disservice to everyone.
Furthermore, if you can’t bring yourself to sign onto your own thoughts, then you probably shouldn’t disseminate them...enough said.