Hospital Punished Veteran for 'God Bless America' in Email Signature
by Mary Chastain 21 Nov 2013, 1:10 PM PDT
Dameron Hospital in Stockton, CA suspended Boots Hawks, an employee and veteran, right before Veterans Day without pay—because of a "God Bless America" email signature, which he has used for over a year.
Hawks took off the signature but told the hospital he wanted to seek legal representation. The following day he found his password and locks changed, and the hospital put him on leave without pay for insubordination.
"I believe in America, and I believe in God so strongly,” Hawks told local television station KCRA. "And I believe that America needs a blessing."
Hawks worked at Dameron for 10 years in quality assurance. He was once "Employee of the Year" and served twenty years in the Army and earned the rank of Sergeant First Class. He contacted Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) after the incident and the firm demanded the hospital reinstate Hawks. Following the public outcry, the hospital is walking back a few of their actions. Hawks will receive back pay for the time he missed and is no longer listed as insubordinate, but human resources said he was disrespectful. He still cannot use his email signature, and his employer will not say why.
“We view the hospital’s response as a retreat from some of their earlier positions, but clearly they have a long way to go toward making this right,” [PJI President Brad] Dacus stated. “We will continue to press for fair and equal treatment of Mr. Hawks’ speech. No one—least of all a veteran—should be censored for fear that someone will be offended by their patriotism.”