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Flags Confiscated, Show of Patriotism Banned in Workplace

Following text excerpted from full story at link below:

"NCCI pulls workers' flags"
By Phil Galewitz, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 15, 2001

On a day of national mourning and prayer, a Boca Raton company had its managers confiscate some American flags from employees' cubicles, saying other workers might find them offensive.

NCCI Holdings Inc., a company that compiles workers compensation insurance data, told its 850 Boca Raton employees that displays of nationalism had no place in the office.

"Divisive statements or actions, political or religious discussions and anything else that could be divisive or mean different things to different people are not appropriate in our work environment," Chief Executive Officer Bill Schrempf said Friday in a memo to employees.

Several employees complained about the flag prohibition. One employee said she was suspended and told to go home Friday morning when she refused to remove a small flag from her desk. The company refused to confirm whether it had asked any employees to leave.

"It just boggles my mind that here in America or anywhere in America, one would be restricted from displaying it," one employee wrote in an e-mail to Schrempf that also was sent to The Palm Beach Post. "Too many people these days, including yourself, it seems, seem to forget what the flag symbolizes and that many men and women served to defend that flag. I think you should show a little more respect."

NCCI spokesman Michael Bullard said the company has a long-standing policy of prohibiting employees from bringing political or religious symbols into the workplace.

Fewer than 10 flags were removed from cubicles, Bullard said. "It seems to me only a small number of people are upset about this," he said.

Palm Beach Gardens human resources consultant Rita Craig said companies need to understand that "right now, more than ever, people want to celebrate the fact that they're American."

"Let's face it, this is the United States. Our flag signifies our freedom," Craig said. "It's not saying that other countries are bad."

Other large Palm Beach County employers, including Delray Beach-based Office Depot and the Palm Beach County School District, allowed their workers to display the flag at their desks.

At FPL Group Inc. in Juno Beach, some employees were given small flags, said Pat Davis, a company spokeswoman.

At Office Depot, the company sent an e-mail to employees Thursday encouraging them to wear red, white and blue clothing on Friday, said company spokesman Lauren Garvey.


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