What a bunch of chit
When Tom Kekoni showed up for work at Babbitt's Sports Center on May 17, he had no idea it would be his last day.
That morning, a sales manager approached Kekoni, a 46-year-old certified mechanic, and asked him whether he had made a certain recent purchase.
The mechanic acknowledged he had, and the sales manager informed him that he didn't need to punch in for work.
Kekoni thought the guy was teasing him.
"Too late, I already did," Kekoni responded.
A little later, the sales manager again approached Kekoni, asking if he believed him.
Kekoni said he did, but he wanted to "hear it from the horse's mouth," referring to his boss, Eddie Babbitt.
Babbitt then fired Kekoni.
Kekoni had just bought a 2005 Harley-Davidson Superglide motorcycle. Babbitt's sells products that compete with Harley, such as Yamaha and Polaris.
"How would it look if my mechanic drives in on a competitor's product?" Babbitt said.
Both Kekoni and Babbitt admit to the firing, which broke no laws.
According to Jack Finn, an administrator with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, Babbitt did nothing illegal.
"Michigan employment is termed 'at will', and as a result an employer can terminate an employee without cause," Finn said.
Kekoni and Babbitt sharply disagree over whether a policy existed against owning competitors' products.
Kekoni, 47, alleges no such thing existed. "There was no policy," he said.
Babbitt, meanwhile, claims the policy always has existed. "It's been a standing policy here forever," he said.
Babbitt added that Kekoni should have been tipped off to the policy by two incidents prior to his firing.
The first was a firing about a month before Kekoni's. Babbitt terminated another employee for buying a Honda off-road motorcycle from a different vendor.
Before that, Kekoni said he approached a sales manager concerning some used Harley bikes in Babbitt's showroom. After Kekoni inquired about purchasing them, he said the sales manager told him, "You don't want to do that."
Kekoni said it wasn't clear to him why the sales manager responded the way he did.
He would later end up buying the bike through Sandy's Harley-Davidson in Fremont, and it already had been shipped when the other employee was fired.
Shortly after letting Kekoni go, Babbitt said his business came under fire from Harley sympathizers and owners.
"I've been blasted online ... it's not easy being the boss," he said.
Kekoni said he learned nothing can be done legally. He remains upset about the reasoning behind his firing.
"Everybody in my opinion has the right to own and buy what they feel they want to have," he said. "It shouldn't be dictated to you by your boss."
Kekoni said he plans to keep the bike.
"It's a helluva thing to get fired over."