David Siegal, the Florida real estate tycoon who claimed he was responsible for Bush’s 2000 victory, recently sent a rather interesting email to his employees. While Siegal is careful to avoid directly threatening his employees, he does say that “if any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company.”
On the one hand, this can be taken as merely a statement of fact and not a threat that he will fire people if Obama gets elected. That is, the email could be interpreted as simply Siegal saying that if taxes are raised, then he will have no option but to fire people.
Since Siegal does have the choice to do other things (he could lower salaries, including his own compensation rather than fire people), he seems to be presenting a false dilemma. Of course, perhaps he is simply reporting that he will, in fact, just fire people if taxes go up-even if there is no need to do so and there are other options. On certain moral views, he would have every right to do so. Of course, those same moral views would also morally allow people to walk by a dying Siegal without lifting a finger to help him.
On the other hand, this seems like a rather clear case of innuendo and scare tactics. After all, he did claim to be the person who made Bush’s election possible and even hinted that he might have used illegal methods. As such, by his own professed narrative, threatening employees would seem to something he could do.
In any case, Siegal’s email seems to be aimed at threatening his employees with termination if Obama is re-elected. That is, on this interpretation he is trying to intimidate the workers into voting for Romney. If this is true, then his actions are certainly immoral an contrary to the principles of democracy. The apparent implied threat could also be taken as creating a hostile work environment which could be grounds for a lawsuit.
Naturally, it can be countered that he was just expressing company policy and preparing his employees to be fired in the event that Obama is re-elected and raises taxes. However, one might think that an ethical professional would present a report indicating the impact of proposed tax increases on the company’s revenue and develop a rational response plan with various options.
It could even be argued that employers have the right to motivate employees to vote a certain way as a condition of employment. After all, some folks contend that people have no right to employment and job creators should have free reign to do as they will.
As might be imagined, I regard such coercion or even the appearance of coercion to be morally unacceptable. While an employer should certainly have business plans in place for various occurrences, sending out a general email that seems to imply that employees should vote for Romney unless they want to be fired is wrong. After all, even if the intent is not to coerce employees that would certainly not be an unreasonable interpretation. After all, if I got an email from my university noting that if Obama is not re-elected, then I would be fired, I would take that as an implied threat.