In the midst of the Charlie Sheen media frenzy, several important questions in the Sheen vs. CBS/Warner Bros. dispute are being overshadowed by the sensational personal videos and interviews. Should an employee’s personal life affect his/her employment? What if that employee is making vast quantities of money for himself/herself and the company? Does having “Adonis DNA” provide protection from non discrimination in the termination process under the new GINA (Genetic Non- Discrimination Act) regulation?
With Charlie Sheen’s controversial personal antics, CBS and Warner Bros. finally starting questioning fitness for duty. Some ask why it took this long for them to finally take note of Sheen’s personal actions. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Charlie Sheen helped make “Two and a Half Men” one of the top syndicated shows on television? Probably. Other high earners in the entertainment industry, professional sports and business have been given considerable leeway from normal standards of conduct. But in the end, high earners are not exempt from negative and/or questionable personal public image, even if means the loss of high earnings for the employee and high revenue for the company he/she represents.
Warner Bros. indicated that they fired Sheen because his erratic personal life became a liability for the company and started to affect his ability to perform on the show. Notice that the employer was very careful to focus on the ability to perform the job (fitness for duty) as the reason for termination. While most employees will not have a contract and the employment relationship will be “employment at-will” it is still very important that the employee is never fired for anything that could be construed as discriminatory. While “ having tiger blood” or being “a rock star from Mars” are not protected classes (at least not yet) employers must ensure that employees are never fired because of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin. “Adonis DNA” certainly sounds like a genetic issue, but isn’t covered under GINA (Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act). There may be upcoming legislation to make trolls a protected class after Jon Cryer’s revelation on the Conan O’Brien show.