A Canadian manager working for the US-headquartered construction supplies distributor Fastenal was fired just before the New Year for complaining on Twitter about the company’s Christmas gift to Canadian staff: a bottle of BBQ sauce and a BBQ grill-scraper.
The sacking, reported by Canadian broadcaster CTV, provoked negative reaction on social media against the company, which has 3,200 branches and sites in the US, Canada and Mexico, and which reported just under $5bn in net sales in 2018.
In response yesterday, Fastenal’s president and chief executive Dan Florness told a newspaper it was "an incredibly unfortunate event", and may have been an "overreaction", but he said he would not "second guess" the decision of his company’s human resources department, which judged that the manager broke the company’s code of conduct.
He also denied the manager’s claim that Fastenal’s 22,000 Canadian staff had been treated less generously than their American and Mexican colleagues.
The manager, Hussien Mehaidli, 27, told CTV News that he complained about the gift because he felt that in previous years Fastenal had been more generous: "You’d get cookies, M&Ms, beef jerky – a box filled with junk food. We always really appreciated that."
He added: "I work really hard. We get pushed really hard to reach our sales goals. I felt I gave this company so much and I felt really disrespected when I was given barbecue sauce as a holiday gift."
Calmer heads didn’t prevail over this– Dan Florness, Fastenal CEO
The hickory-flavoured sauce was made by Canadian company "Get Sauced", some of whose products retail on Amazon for C$7.99.
Mehaidli, who had worked six years for Fastenal, also claimed his employer had been less generous to its Canadian employees than its American ones.
To express his disappointment, Mehaidli tweeted in the week before Christmas: "What kind of multi billion dollar company gifts its Canadian employees barbecue sauce as a holiday gift? Yet the USA employees stuff their face with an actual holiday gift box!"
Although Mehaidli posted his comment from his anonymous account, he made the mistake of tagging Fastenal and Fastenal Canada, which immediately brought the tweet to the company’s attention.
Mehaidli believes he was identified from a previous tweet which revealed his office environment.
The day after posting this tweet and another complaining about the gift, his manager called saying he should delete them, which Mehaidli told CTV he had already done.
However, he was called into a meeting on 30 December and fired on the spot for violating company conduct standards. Mehaidli told CTV his manager informed him that it was the wish of "corporate in the US".
Mehaidli said the sacking came at a difficult time. "Christmas just came by. There are bills to be paid, my Visa bill. Money is an issue. I’m a very heavy believer in God and everything happens for a reason, but I believe I was done very, very dirty," he told CTV.
After the CTV report on Friday, 3 January Fastenal’s twitter account received dozens of negative messages, some threatening to boycott the company.Â
Yesterday Dan Florness, CEO of the NASDAQ-listed firm headquartered in Winona, Minnesota, told Minnesota newspaper Star Tribune that he was "very surprised by the whole thing".Â
"Calmer heads didn’t prevail over this," he said. "Nobody reached out to me to say, ‘Really? I am getting fired over a tweet?’ It’s an incredibly unfortunate event."
When asked if Mehaidli might ever be rehired, Florness said the decision to fire him may have been "an overreaction", but that he was "not going to second guess" his HR staff.
Prompted by the strong reaction to the CTV report, Florness said he made a video and sent it to all general managers in Canada the following morning to counter the claim that Fastenal’s 22,000 Canadian workers had been treated unfairly.
He said the the gift pack sent to Canadian workers, comprising the sauce and a scraper branded with the Fastenal logo, cost US$27 each, which was the budget set for each worker in Canada, the US and Mexico.
In the past, he told the newspaper, all workers got the same gift, but because of new customs regulations, country operations had been asked to source gift packs from their respective territories.
Meanwhile, Edmonton-based sauce-maker Get Sauced said it had suffered from the negative publicity, with people blaming them for the firing.
Owner Gary Lalonde told CTV News Edmonton on Saturday: "It hasn’t been good for us. We’ve got people on Twitter and Facebook making negative comments about it, thinking we’re the reason that gentleman got removed … We’ve got people saying they’re going to boycott us."
Image: Get Sauced’s BBQ range (Get Sauced)