Businesses, large and small, are finding themselves caught in the crossfire as the postal survey on marriage equality flames tensions around the country.
As foreshadowed by My Business, the debate on Australian marriage laws has spilled into the business community, with leaders taking a stand – both for and against change – courting controversy.
Woolworths was forced to take action after its former chief executive, Roger Corbett, outlined why he planned to vote against change in a televised interview.
While no longer an employee of the company, Mr Corbett’s comments reportedly led Woolworths to field boycott threats from customers who mistakenly believed he was still in the role, and which go against the company’s public position on the issue.
“We believe marriage equality is not just a social but also a workplace issue. For that reason, we pledged our support for marriage equality,” Woolworths said in a statement on Twitter to its more than 20,000 followers.
“We’re proud to embrace diversity and want to be a community where all our people are free to be themselves without fear of prejudice or discrimination.”
It comes after a Canberra-based SME owner made national headlines for sacking a contractor who publicly disagreed with the company’s position.
Madlin Sims has been caught in the middle of the emotional debate in trying to balance the conflicting demands of protecting customers and adhering to fair workplace laws.
She fired the contractor for commenting on social media about why she voted no, which Ms Sims said posed a direct risk to her business and the young people who form her customer base.
News.com.au reported that one reader referred to the recent story of a church cancelling a couple’s wedding because of their support for marriage equality, and said that if that is acceptable, “I fail to understand how an employer should be forced to ignore an employee… taking the same [position]”.
Ms Sims said on her Facebook page that an interview Triple J would be the last time she would speak publicly on the matter. However, she noted that her original post has since been removed by Facebook.
“My last post got deleted by Facebook for hate speech (yet all the homophobic comments are still on my other post),” she wrote.
Ms Sims added that: “I risked my business and my integrity doing this,” but that she stands by her beliefs and her decision not to allow her business to be associated with views contrary to her own.