Nanette Byrd, better known as Brad's wife, lost her job at Cracker Barrel. People lose their job every day, but what makes this case special is that this has become internet famous, with a petition (with over 20,0000 signatures) demanding answers as to why Nanette Byrd lost her job after 11 years.
If you're tempted to post a bad review about Cracker Barrel, send a nasty email, or just sign the petition, stop and think. Is this really how you want things to play out should you ever be so unfortunate as to lose your job?
Of course, you say! You want answers! Let the internet demand answers.
Well, I'm not so sure that you do want the whole internet to demand answers about why you were terminated.
According to Brad, Nanette was terminated for a mystery reason after 11 years of service, and two weeks before she would be eligible for a vacation payout. (Heavy has all the details if you're so inclined.) Brad Byrd says they will hire an attorney and sue. Let's assume that 100 percent of what Brad says is true. Cracker Barrel is not responding to media requests (at least, they didn't respond to mine and they didn't respond to the Washington Post, and so I figure I'm in good company).
So, why would a company fire an employee after 11 years of faithful service? Technically, the United States (except for Montana) has employment-at-will, which means that your boss can just wake up one morning and say, "hey, I think I'll fire Nanette," and then do so and it would be perfectly legal.
In reality, no one fires like this. There is always a reason. Even bad district managers don't fire great employees with 11 years of service on a whim. There's a reason Nanette was fired, and Nanette may or may not know it. It may be an unfair reason--heaven knows there are bad managers out there that fire people for stupid reasons, but it may well be a good reason.
Can there be a good reason to fire someone and that person sincerely not have a clue what that reason is? Yes. Absolutely. It's not because the person hasn't been told, warned, and coached, but because the person hasn't believed it. Anyone who's fired a lot of people will have stories to share about employees who flat out didn't believe their manager and HR when told, over and over again, that their jobs were at risk.
Could there be a racist/sexist/other -ist reason that Nanette lost her job? Sure. But it's unlikely that those reasons appeared overnight and that neither Nanette or Brad suspects them. If they suspected, you'd think Brad would have mentioned it by now.
What's most likely in this scenario is that Cracker Barrel had a good reason for firing Nanette. They are being polite and proper by keeping quiet. And furthermore, this is what you want to happen.
Do you want the company you work for to issue a press release if you get fired?
After 12 years with us, John's work began to slack off. We coached him, but he didn't respond. He was late 12 times since January. We encouraged him to take advantage of our Employee Assistance Program. Still, he missed his deadlines, was rude to other staff, and couldn't manage to do quality work, so we kicked him to the curb. We won't fight unemployment, but we won't give him a positive reference either.
Is that how you want the future to be? Because that's what you're asking for if you sign this petition, and demand Cracker Barrel makes their reasons public. If Nanette wants to sue (Brad cannot sue on her behalf) that information will become public, but wrongful termination is pretty hard to win.
You may think it's funny, but it wouldn't be funny if you are the owner of a business and a terminated employee does this to you.
Let's all be adults here. If Nanette Byrd has a case, she should hire an attorney. But don't think internet mob rule is the way you want employment cases to be sorted out. It's not pretty and it's a terrible idea for employee and employer alike.
Update: An earlier version said Nanette was fired on her birthday, but it was her mother-in-law's birthday, a fact which Cracker Barrel would have no reason to know.