WSVN — She was a state of Florida employee lauded for encouraging other workers. Then she sent a mass e-mail to hundreds of employees encouraging them, using the name of God, and she was fired. Was it for using God's name. It's why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Some people just have a bad attitude, finding something to complain about every moment of the day. And then there are the wonderful people with a great outlook like Latoya Anderson.
Latoya Anderson: "I was taught to encourage people, and that just does not mean in church. It means, when you are out on regular life, when no one has a spotlight on you, try to encourage people."
Latoya was a manager at States Division of Motor Vehicles Drivers, working in the driver's license office. Not an easy job.
Latoya Anderson: "No one likes to go to the driver's license office. Every single person hates it."
And one day, Latoya wanted to encourage her co-workers across the state, crafting an e-mail that in part read…
Latoya Anderson: "I encourage you to smile; even when you feel like crying in the inside, smile."
She went on to say, "God sent me to tell that you are chosen, and you are awesome," also writing, "Nothing is impossible with God." Then she sent it to several hundred state employees and vendors in her e-mail list. The responses poured in.
Latoya Anderson: "'Thank you so much. People where sending me responses, 'Thank you,' 'God bless you.' 'I've been working for the state for a while. This is the most inspired I have ever been since I've been working here.' 'I'm going through a rough time, and this right here is just what I needed to get through.'"
As she went home that day, she felt great. The next day she came in, and one of her bosses called her.
Latoya Anderson: "One of them said, 'Why in the world did you send that e-mail?' [I said], 'I did it because people need to be encouraged.' [They said], 'But you should have put it on Facebook, and you should have left it at that.'"
She was then told to take a vacation. When she returned, she was handed this letter.
Latoya Anderson: "And the letter said I was fired."
The letter didn't explain the reason for her firing, and Latoya says it's common for employees to send mass e-mails from their computers wishing people Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, but in her 21-line e-mail, Latoya used God's name four times. She is convinced that's what got her fired, but when she asked if that was the reason, no one would give any details.
Latoya Anderson: "I want to hear it from them, 'This is why you where fired!' Because to be honest with you, there was no other valid reason."
Well, Howard, Latoya sent an e-mail to state employees, using a state computer, encouraging them and using the name of God. Is that a fireable offense?
Howard Finkelstein: "As the head of a government agency, I wouldn't fire someone for sending a positive message. Legally, though, sending a personal e-mail from a government computer is not personal, and therefore it has a right to fire you."
When we contacted the Division of Motor Vehicles, they told us they could not discuss Latoya's firing. We then got her personnel file from the state. Her termination letter didn't explain why she was fired, but another letter in the file says she "sent an inappropriate e-mail to several hundred members in all divisions."
When we asked the state if using God's name is what made the email inappropriate, they told us, "We will let her records speak for themselves."
Then, a few days later, they called us again and said it was not the use of God's name, but sending the mass e-mail to staff and vendors that was inappropriate and got Latoya fired. But Latoya is still convinced that proves it was her use of God that got her fired.
Howard Finkelstein: "If she was fired for using the name of God in her e-mail, it's still not protected free speech, because she used a state computer, which would give some people the perception that the government agencies have those beliefs. And so, again, they have the right to terminate her."
When Latoya was fired, her boss wrote, "She was very respectful and composed." Not surprising, because she has that great attitude about life.
Latoya Anderson: "I am unemployed right now, unemployed but looking, so if anybody needs an encourager, I am your girl!"
If you are looking for a bright, upbeat employee, Latoya is ready to work. Contact us if you want to talk to her. And the state says they didn't fire her for using God's name, but for sending a mass e-mail. Latoya says that is strange, because a lot of employees send mass e-mails. Oh well, she is moving on.
Feel like you need some divine intervention to solve your problem? That's out of our range, but we do take e-mails, so contact us. We don't need a license to help you, just love to do it.
With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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