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Former CRVA employee claims he was fired for wearing Trump t-shirt on his day off

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 5:25 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2021 at 8:05 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A former employee of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority claims he was fired from his job for wearing a “Trump” t-shirt on his day off. In a lawsuit filed against the CRVA he claims that his job was terminated only because of his political viewpoints.

In an interview with WBTV, Tim Tarlton explained the backlash he received for his conservative political opinions, even though he said he was careful not to express them in the office.

“It’s this whole cancel culture and some people can have their beliefs at work, other people can’t,” Tarlton said.

“It’s two-sided and it doesn’t seem fair at all.”

Tarlton served in the maintenance department at CRVA and helped put together countless events at the Spectrum Center in his four years with the organization.

“We maintain the building as far as electrical for the city, heating and air, plumbing, sheetrock, carpentry work, all that stuff to keep the building up for events,” Tarlton said.

But in 2020 there weren’t many events because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Also looming large was the presidential election. Tarlton said he made a Facebook post about the political climate one time, only to get a warning from one of his supervisors.

“(He said) be careful, do not post anything when you see her comment on my Facebook because this could cause problems for you at work,” Tarlton said.

Tarlton said the warning was about his boss Cathy Buchhofer and, in a lawsuit he filed against the CRVA, Tarlton alleges Buchhofer was “politically liberal and would not tolerate conservative viewpoints in the office.”

That came to a head when Tarlton says he was asked to join a video conference call on his off day. He said two of his supervisors, including Buchhofer were on the call and when he finished with his presentation he grabbed a beer.

“I reached into the fridge and got a beer and I cracked it and had a couple drinks,” Tarlton said.

“That night at 7:10 I get a phone call by Brian telling me that I no longer had a job there for drinking on the job, and I’m like you can’t do that, I’m at home, it’s my day off.”

The CRVA policy manual does not prohibit the consumption of alcohol at work only saying “The use of alcohol by employees while conducting business on the CRVA’s behalf is permitted only to the extent that it is not unlawful and does not adversely affect the safety of the employee or others, the employee’s job performance or the CRVA’s reputation in the community”

Tarlton told WBTV that during his termination call the HR Manager provided him with another explanation for his firing.

“She said, yes we can fire you for this and also for wearing a Trump shirt on a video conference call,” Tarlton said.

In his lawsuit against CRVA, Tarlton claims his termination was retaliatory discrimination because of his expressed political viewpoints. He was fired on August 6th, 2020 and told WBTV it was without any previous warnings or writeups.

The CRVA is a board/organization underneath the City of Charlotte umbrella and helps oversee millions of dollars in revenue from tourism and hospitality taxes.

It’s the same organization that helped push for the Republican National Convention to come to the Queen City.

“I’m 100 percent positive if I had a Biden shirt on or another political shirt for the Democrat Party, I would still have my job today,” Tarlton said.

WBTV reached out to a CRVA spokesperson for a response to Tarlton’s claims. A spokesperson emailed CRVA was “not able to comment on ongoing litigation involving personnel matters.”

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