Sending text messages is now many people’s favourite way of communicating. You can send one out instantly to just one person or many people all at once, and each recipient can read it at their leisure. It’s quick and convenient. It can also be a fairly impersonal method of communicating.

That’s why it caught my eye when it was reported last week that one boss had let his entire staff go with a mass text message. Apparently Peter Demos, owner of Demos restaurant in Alabama texted his employees to tell them not to bother coming back to work.

It turns out that his restaurant was closing down, and he wanted them all to know as soon as possible so they could begin their job searches. He also mentioned safety concerns. With recent workplace shootings fresh on his mind, he worried about having a large group of people being told all at once that they were losing their jobs while they were all on site.

A few months ago, we reported on the case of the insurance company which accidentally fired their entire staff by email. (Instead of sending the termination notice to the one employee in question they sent an email to all employees reminding them to clean out their desks and leave their security passes behind on their way out.)

The email, seemed pretty cold, and it was quite a discussion-worthy blunder that it was accidentally sent out to the whole company. (We can only imagine that a certain HR worker was also cleaning out their desk and leaving their security pass behind that day.)

However, it was an accident. In this more recent case, the boss calculated that the most efficient (and safest) way to let his employees go was with a group text.

Is it even legal to fire people with a text message? Apparently it is. When asked about an earlier case of a woman being fired by text message, employment attorney Brett Duke’s response was unequivocal, “It is unfortunately. There’s not any requirement that employers not be jerks,” he said. 

Australians see it differently. A high-end boutique in Sydney was recently fined roughly $10,000 for firing an employee with a text message. The employment commissioner cited the employer’s “appalling… lack of courage” as the reason for the hefty fine.

Text messages: they’re fast, they’re convenient and they’re modern. But are they an acceptable way to let someone (or your whole staff) know that they no longer have a job? What do you think?


Peter Harris

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