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Pep Boys Firing All Military Employees

Netlore Archive: Email rumor alleges that Pep Boys, the national auto parts chain based in Philadelphia, is firing all reservist and National Guard employees called up for active duty in the Iraq war.

Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: March 2003
Status: False

Email text contributed by R. Marker-Smith, March 26, 2003:

Pep Boys Auto Parts Stores are firing all employees who are National Guard or Reserves and are being called up for active duty. There has already been federal law suits filed against Pep Boys.

I had to go buy some parts for my truck this weekend and asked the Manager of a Pep Boys here in OKC who happens to be of middle east decent ( his picture and name are at the front of the store) if it was true these people were being fired and he replied it sure was and if he had any working at his store he would fire them too at which point he turned around and walked away. I then dumped my stuff on the counter and walked out. A women in front of me overheard this and she promptly walked out also.

Analysis: Of particular interest in the development of this rumor is how the announcement of one lawsuit, filed by a reservist who says Pep Boys fired him because he was called up for naval training, escalated in a matter of days to the blanket allegation that Pep Boys is firing all military reservist and National Guard employees called to active duty. The latter is patently false.

According to a company press release, at least 30 current Pep Boys employees nationwide have, without incident, taken temporary leave from their jobs at Pep Boys to fulfill their military obligations in the Iraq war. "Pep Boys stands by its record of support for its employee servicemen and servicewoman," states the press release.

The above-mentioned lawsuit alleges that Pep Boys terminated Naval reservist Erik Balodis, forcing him into bankruptcy, because his military duties required him to spend too much time away from his job. Lawyers for Pep Boys have responded that Balodis was fired for poor job performance, pure and simple. The truth of the matter will have to be determined in court.

As noted in a recent edition of the National Law Journal, employer treatment of reservist or National Guard employees called to active duty isn't just a matter of patriotism, it's a point of law. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) forbids any company, large or small, from discriminating against such employees and requires that they be re-employed when their tour of duty is up.

Wedge-driving rumors

Given the exceptionally patriotic mood of the country just now, how companies are responding to the military call-up and war-related issues has come under intense public scrutiny, yielding no shortage of emotionally-charged fodder for the rumor mill. One email flier enthusiastically applauds Sears — just one of many companies offering reservists benefits that exceed what's required by law — for going above and beyond the call of duty. Another calls for a boycott of Target stores for allegedly turning down a request to support a Vietnam veterans' memorial. Yet another rumor targeting various businesses around the country by name claims that uniformed military personnel have been openly spurned or mistreated by workers in restaurants. In every case where they've been investigated, those allegations have proven to be false.

Sociologists call these "wedge-driving" rumors and say they're especially common in wartime, when an "us against them" mentality prevails. Sowing discord in the name of unity, they betray an ironic, darker side to patriotic fervor.

Sources and further reading:

Reservist Says Company Fired Him Due to Military Commitments
USA Today, 19 March 2003

Pep Boys Retains Counsel to Counter False Information
Pep Boys press release, March 2003

Pep Boys Blames the Work, Not the War
Philadelphia Business Journal, 21 March 2003

Manny, Moe and Iraq
Philadelphia Daily News, 19 March 2003

Last updated: 04/15/03

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