Careful with your hip hop if you work at Duke University—some hot beats and fire lyrics could get you fired.
According to IndyWeek.com, on Friday, May 4, Larry Moneta, the vice president for student affairs, walked into the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop at Duke University and heard rap music. Reportedly, it was a song by Young Dolph’s “Get Paid,” which has lyrics that includes the n-word and curses. Moneta’s delicate soul was mortified.
Moneta, who ordered a vegan muffin, told Britni Brown, who is a Black Woman and was manning the register, that the song was offensive. IndyWeek.com reports she said, “Yes, of course,” turned off the song and offered to give him the muffin free of charge. He insisted on paying. She apologized about the song, offered again to not charge him for the muffin and Moneta responded with, “You need to ring me up for it right now.”
Kevin Simmons, who is White, worked at Joe Van Gogh that day said, “Harassing is definitely the word I would use. He was verbally harassing her.” IndyWeek.com claims, “Less than ten minutes later, Brown says she received a call from Robbie Roberts, the owner of Joe Van Gogh. He said that Coffey, the director of dining services who oversees this Joe Van Gogh location, had just called him. Roberts asked her about the incident. According to Brown, she explained what happened, took full responsibility, and apologized again.”
On Monday, Simmons and Brown were told to resign. Simmons had been working there for 90 days and Brown had been employed for nearly a year and a half.
In an audio recording obtained by IndyWeek.com, Brown told Joe Van Gogh’s human resources department, “For [Simmons, a white man] to be fired because of this, it is not fair. I feel like you guys were trying to cover it up as to make it not look discriminatory for firing a person of color.”
IndyWeek.com also reports, “Brown says she was not aware of any policies regarding the playing of music in the shop. Other employees of Joe Van Gogh say they are not aware of a music policy either. ‘When I got hired, the only thing that was expected for the music was for it to be cool music,’ Brown says. ‘There was no training to make sure that your music was appropriate.'”
Moneta released a statement to the Duke Chronicle, which read, “The employees who chose to play the song in a business establishment on the Duke campus made a poor decision which was conveyed to the JVG management. How they responded to the employees’ behavior was solely at their discretion.” IndyWeek.com points out that Moneta blaming JVG is a contradiction, “To be clear, that is the opposite of what Joe Van Gogh’s human relations official told Brown and Simmons as they were being terminated.”
The irony here is that Moneta has Tweeted he is an advocate of hate speech on campus because of “freedom of expression.” Therefore, how ridiculous that a random rap song would make you go as far as to tattle on these two for them to get fired. A humane person would say to not play music with curse words again and not call their bosses to ensure they lose their jobs.
Both Brown and Simmons accepted severance packages and are now looking for new employment. However, after the from social media, the owner of Joe Van Gogh Robbie Roberts is now issuing an apology. See below:
“Joe Van Gogh apologizes to our employees, customers and community for how we handled a situation involving our Duke University store. As you have read*, it is true that Joe Van Gogh is a contractor to Duke. We attempted to understand Duke’s position in this case, but we should have taken a different approach in making personnel decisions. As the owner of the business, I take full responsibility for Joe Van Gogh’s actions. I apologize to all of the people directly involved and those who have been touched or offended, of which there are many. We are taking steps to remedy this matter, but all company personnel issues are private and will remain private. Again, my truly sincere apologies.”
Clearly, the two employees need to be offered their jobs back, but maybe there is a possibility of a lawsuit. Let’s hope Britni Brown contacts a lawyer.