Winona company fires Canadian for complaint about weak holiday gift

A tweet about Fastenal's holiday gift kind of sucking allegedly got one Canadian employee fired.

A tweet about Fastenal's holiday gift kind of sucking allegedly got one Canadian employee fired. CTV

Fastenal, a Winona-based manufacturing and distribution company with over 2,000 branches nationwide and several thousand workers in Canada, learned a hard lesson this week.

If there’s anything that makes you look worse than giving employees a weak holiday bonus, it’s firing someone for noticing.

It all started with a tweet posted in December.

“What kind of multi billion dollar company gifts it’s [sic] Canadian employees barbecue sauce as a holiday gift?” it read. “Yet the USA employees stuff their face with an actual holiday gift box!” The tweet tagged Fastenal and Fastenal Canada and included a picture of some “Get Sauced” hickory barbeque sauce.

Hussien Mehaidli later came forward, telling CTV he's 27, and had, until very recently, worked as a general manager for Fastenal in Canada.

When Mehaidli first joined the company in 2013, he and his co-workers would get a box full of treats every year for the holidays—M&Ms, beef jerky, the works. This year’s gift of a grill scraper with the company logo and a bottle of barbecue sauce (estimated worth: $6) left him a little put out, especially when he heard from an American co-worker that the U.S. side got their usual goodie basket.

His angry tweet felt like blowing off a little steam without incurring any risk. He thought he'd complained anonymously. Only later did Mehaidli realize he’d previously posted a photo of himself buying tickets to a WWE event in Vancouver. His work computer and some of his desk were featured in the background.

Mehaidli deleted the gift bitterness, but the damage was done. His boss phoned him the next day.

“He called me by my Twitter name,” Mehaidli told CTV.

Two days before the new year, Mehaidli was called into a meeting and fired. An exit interview letter cited the reason for his termination as “violation of standards of conduct policy.”

Fastenal declined City Pages’ request for comment, but CEO Dan Florness confirmed the firing with the Star Tribune.

“I am not going to deny it,” he said. “We did terminate an employee.” He said he learned about the whole kerfuffle after the CTV article, as unexpected messages started appearing on the company website. Florness says he was “surprised” by the whole thing.

The CEO says the the barbecue sauce and grill scraper are worth just as much as the gift box given to U.S. workers: $27. Employees on either side of the border were given different gifts because new customs regulations had made it more practical to choose gifts from their respective countries.

“Calmer heads didn’t prevail over this,” he told the Tribune. “Nobody reached out to me to say, ‘Really? I am getting fired over a tweet?’ It’s an incredibly unfortunate event.” When asked if they’d consider rehiring the worker, Florness said while the decision may have been an “overreaction,” he stood by his staff.