A Florida Democrat lost her job because she was running against her employer’s favored candidate. Viviana Janer, a candidate for the Osceola County Commission, said that she is considering taking legal action after Marriott Vacations Worldwide fired her for her attempt to unseat John Quiñones.
Janer’s eleven-year tenure at the company ended when she was presented with a choice: drop out of the race, or lose her job. She says that she was told that she would be fired “if I did not stop the effort to unseat Mr. Quiñones.”
“After a decade of accolades and promotions, I was told my job would be abruptly terminated if I did not drop out of the race,” she said. “Despite my wish to continue working, I felt I could not turn my back on the many citizens of Osceola County who worked so hard to get me elected. I refused to drop out of the race, and on Friday I was fired from a job I loved.”
In her termination letter, Senior Vice President and Chief Audit Executive Julie Meyer explained that the now-unemployed Democrat had never obtained their permission to run against their favored candidate.
“You admitted that you had concluded that your supervisors would not authorize you to pursue your candidacy while remaining in your position, and for that reason you did not raise it to management’s attention,” the letter said.
However, company policy states that employees “are encouraged to participate in the political and governmental process, but must be certain that they are doing so using their own resources and their own time.”
Marriott Vacations Worldwide spokesman Ed Kinney said that the possibility of Janer’s election could pose a conflict of interest, as the company’s competitors have properties in Osceola.
According to Around Osceola,
Quiñones’ campaign transaction log shows that he received a $1,000 contribution from Marriott International. Marriott Vacations Worldwide was formerly a division of Marriott International before being split off as its dedicated vacation unit ownership company in November 2011. Kinney said the contribution was made through Marriott’s political action committee in accordance with campaign laws on behalf of the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, which is managed by Marriott International.
Quiñones also received $1,000 from the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, which lists a Westwood Boulevard address that is adjacent to Marriott Vacations Worldwide’s headquarters that Janer worked out of, in July.
“The Marriott companies financially support Mr. Quiñones. However, that should not give anyone the power to fire good employees and therefore promote a favored candidate,” Janer said. “I believe in what we are doing and I will continue with my campaign. If necessary, I will take legal action to protect the rights of citizens of Osceola County to elect the candidate of their choosing without unfair influence of special interests.”
The damage already done to his political opponent, Quiñones announced on Tuesday that he would be returning the donation made to him by Marriott in an effort to distance himself from the punishment his rival faced for her decision to run against him.
“I have many people who gave to my account. I’ve had no discussions with them about the campaign,” he said. “Anyone who is eligible to run for an office should be able to do it. But she’s made this a political issue, and the focus should be on serving her constituents.”
Janer, however, refuses to allow the company’s actions on behalf of her opponent discourage her. “I’m still in shock. I’ve never been unemployed,” she said. “My campaign is my priority now.”
For more on Viviana Janer, watch this video from the Orlando Sentinel: