A Florida hotel fired its front desk supervisor after the man wore an American flag lapel pin, a violation of the hotel's personal appearance policies that prohibit employees from wearing badges and pins.
Sean May told Jacksonville's WJXT that his manager at St. Augustine's Casa Monica Hotel told him Thursday to remove the pin or leave. He refused to take it off and was sent home. The following day, the hotel informed him he was fired.
"I wear it with pride because I like where I live and I love this country," May told the station. When his manager gave him the ultimatum, "I said I'm not going to remove the pin so I guess I'm going home."
May, 26, said he wore the pin everyday for two years and never had a problem with it until his manager approached him.
The hotel defended the decision to fire May in an email to the station:
"The Casa Monica Hotel located in St. Augustine, Florida, is an American-based, homegrown historic hotel," the email reads. "The property reflects its pride in America and great patriotism by flying the Stars and Stripes high over the hotel. The American flag greets every guest and employee with its symbolism of our belief in this great country."
"However, our employee handbook clearly states, 'No other buttons, badges, pins or insignias of any kind are permitted to be worn.' No matter an individual's national preference, political views or religious affiliation, it is a standard regulation which ensures equality for all Grand Performers [employees]."
According to the station, a recent upper level management change has led to a reinforcement of certain policies that may have been allowed to lapse.
May said he never received complaints about the pins from hotel guests, many of whom he said seemed to like it.
"I've actually gotten more comments about it than any of the service I've actually done at the hotel," he said. "Why would I want to work for a company that isn't going to be supportive of what I believe in and what I'm working towards?"
The station said it received a massive community response to May's story, which first aired Thursday. One Florida resident, Air Force veteran Bruce Whalen, said the lapel pin should be a dress code requirement for all residents and is calling for a boycott of the hotel.
"Anybody who takes a chance on his livelihood to take a stand for patriotism is a hero and should be treated like a hero," Whalen said.
Earlier this week, an Olive Garden restaurant in Alabama prompted national outrage for not allowing an 80-year-old patron to bring an American flag in for a Kiwanis club banquet.