Intern Fired for Dress Code Petition Is the Case Against Social Justice Education

Coddling has consequences.



Does a university education really prepare students to succeed in the workplace? The testimony of one recent undergraduate, who was fired from his internship after fomenting organized opposition to the company's dress code, should give pause.

The anonymous millennial wrote to advice blogger Alison Green for guidance. (I am presuming he is male, based on his specific complaints about the dress code—wearing a suit, for example.) He said that he felt "the dress code was overly strict," but wasn't going to complain until his sense of injustice was triggered:

"I noticed one of the workers always wore flat shoes that were made from a fabric other than leather, or running shoes, even though both of these things were contrary to the dress code.

I spoke with my manager about being allowed some leeway under the dress code and was told this was not possible, despite the other person being allowed to do it. I soon found out that many of the other interns felt the same way, and the ones who asked their managers about it were told the same thing as me."

The intern decided his best course of action was to create a petition requesting a relaxation of the dress code. "It was mostly about the footwear, but we also incorporated a request that we not have to wear suits and/or blazers in favor of a more casual, but still professional dress code," he wrote. Most of the other interns signed it.

Needless to say, management did not take kindly to the petition. The interns who signed it were called into a meeting and fired en masse. It turned out the worker who had been excused from following the dress code was a veteran who had lost his leg and was permitted to wear whatever footwear was most comfortable.

The fired intern writes that he was "shocked":

The proposal was written professionally like examples I have learned about in school, and our arguments were thought out and well-reasoned. We weren't even given a chance to discuss it.

I have never had a job before (I've always focused on school) and I was hoping to gain some experience before I graduate next year. I feel my dismissal was unfair and would like to ask them to reconsider but I'm not sure the best way to go about it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I don't want to make too much of a single anecdote—it doesn't actually tell us whether millennial workers are more likely than other workers to act entitled. But the intern's justification of his actions is illustrative. This is what he learned in school: if you don't like your company's policies, create a petition or organize against management. As if that's how professional people in the private sector handle disagreements.

Perhaps an education in social justice activism is not as valuable as university planners want their students to believe it is.

It's also quite funny that these socially conscious interns didn't immediately recognize the one actually marginalized person in the situation: the disabled veteran.