Normally, Brad Stecklein would be teaching golf classes, working the pro shop or checking on the greens at Legends Golf and Country Club in south Lee County.
Instead, since Monday afternoon Stecklein, 46, the former assistant golf pro at Legends, has been sitting in front of the club’s entrance off Fiddlesticks Boulevard without sleeping or eating in protest over what he says was an unjust and unwarranted firing from a job he held for 14-plus years.
“I’m trying to get the club to give me a severance,” he said Tuesday.
Stecklein, looking tired and upset, said his firing came without warning Monday; “They gave me no reason. I’m fasting to make a statement.”
Legends general manager and chief operating officer Ranae Frazier said she had no idea why Stecklein was staging his protest outside the property and declined to make a statement. “Nobody is fired without cause,” was all she would say.
Florida is an “at will” state, meaning a worker can generally be fired without cause or notice.
According to state statutes, there are exceptions. You cannot fire an employee under Florida employment law if termination is for an illegal reason or goes against the terms of an employment contract.
Stecklein said there was no reason to fire him as he has been a loyal employee at Legends for almost a decade and a half.
“It’s a lot for me to go through,” he said. Stecklein said there had been a change in leadership at the pro shop in December and he had been subject to harsh treatment; but “Never once been called in to be written up.”
Chad Perkins, the golf pro at Legends since December, could not be reached for comment.
Deputies from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office have stopped by, Stecklein said, but as long as he’s on the sidewalk he’s not in violation, he said they told him.
While Stecklein sat at the club’s entrance Tuesday afternoon member after member stopped by, some hugging him, many just giving him words of encouragement and support.
“We’re concerned about this,” said club member and resident Don Bianchini. “We’re all upset. It’s pretty sad.”
Bianchini said he implored Stecklein to suspend his hunger strike.
“I’m trying to get him to go home and do this a different way,” he said. “We have to express our thoughts and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Club member and resident Lynne Gilbert pulled to the side of Fiddlesticks when she saw Stecklein, jumped out of her SUV and patted him on the shoulder, prompting him to drop his head and wipe his eyes.
“Everyone loves him and kids around with him,” she said. “He’s just a likeable guy.”
Gilbert, who took lessons from the lanky Stecklein, said she hoped the issue could be resolved.
“I’ve had over 200 members of this club, which is over a quarter of the club, come out here and support and pray with me,” Stecklein said.
“It’s a shame,” Gilbert added. “He deserves his support from his friends.”
Still, Stecklein, who was not working under contract, vowed to continue not eating or sleeping until Legends offers him something for the time he spent there.
“Until I wither away,” he said.
He said his wife is ill with a chronic intestinal disease and he has an 11-year-old son to support.
“They offered me no severance pay,” he said. “There’s so many layers to this. All I did was respond to a note I was written to after being verbally abused for six months. And then it’s just ‘get out of here’. They fired me, no process.”
He said he passed up an offer from a long-shot job opportunity at a club in Collier County last year because he felt a sense of loyalty to Legends and didn’t want to leave the club in the lurch in the middle of season and with COVID-19 still rampant.
“I’m hoping to get some attention from this, get some legal assistance from this,” he said. He does have an attorney, he said, but any legal response is still in the planning stages.
“I feel like a member of my family died,” he said. “This isn’t the way employees should be treated.”
Connect with breaking news reporter Michael Braun: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook), @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/06/golf-pro-florida-hunger-strike-fired/