Hillsdale resident Wesley Rogers resigned from his position at the Hillsdale Bob Evans plant after the company’s corporate office told him to remove the large Confederate flag he flies from his truck or be fired.
“We believe the flag is offensive to many of our customers and employees,” Bob Evans spokeswoman Angela Payne said. “We concluded that such behavior was contrary to our corporate culture of inclusion and asked the employee to remove the flag while in the parking lot, or to park his truck outside the lot. The employee rejected both options and resigned. ”
Rogers, who could not be reached for comment by the Collegian, told the Hillsdale Daily News that the plant, located at 200 N Wolcott St., only received one anonymous complaint before his managers gave him the ultimatum.
“They said they were doing their best to follow up on a complaint, to make [the person who lodged the complaint] more comfortable,” Rogers told the Daily News. “But I wasn’t comfortable with it. I said ‘it wasn’t coming down, no way.’ Then they showed me the way out.”
According to one of Rogers’s former co-workers, Rogers has been flying the flag since early 2015 without a problem. Now, after Rogers’s resignation, the plant supervisors announced a new policy change that prohibits all employees from flying the flag on company property.
“They made it clear. Whoever flies the Confederate flag will face termination,” the co-worker told the Daily News. He also said that employees raised the issue and questioned supervisors, but received no explanation.
The flag is a representation of his Southern heritage, Rogers said, and not a support of the history critics of the flag say it represents.
“They were misunderstanding me,” Rogers told the Daily News. “A lot of people think that it’s racist. It’s not racist; it’s my heritage. I grew up in the south, in Virginia. It’s been made into a symbol of hate. I’m not hanging it because I’m a racist. I’m hanging it because I’m a Southerner.”
Payne told The Associated Press that Rogers resigned from a sausage plant in Hillsdale before his job at Bob Evans for refusing to take down his Confederate flag. Rogers said he isn’t worried about finding a new job.
He told the Daily News that while he needs to support his family, the Bob Evans plant is “not where [he wants] to be,” and he will find work elsewhere in the country with his work experience.
“I felt like I had the right to express myself,” Rogers told the Daily News.
Since the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church massacre in South Carolina earlier this year, businesses have stopped selling the flag and started prohibiting use of the flag on company property. The Michigan International Speedway suggested spectators leave their flags at home, and Amazon.com, Inc. and eBay Inc. have removed products associated with the flag.
Paul Monahan, Hillsdale Bob Evans plant manager, declined to comment and directed the Collegian to Payne.