Dave Ramsey, the evangelical Christian “financial guru,” was already outed last month for endangering his employees by openly flouting COVID precautions. But the corruption goes far deeper than that.
Former employees spoke with Bob Smietana of Religion News Service and explained how the work environment was far more cultish than anything that could be called Christ-like. It’s a far cry from what Ramsey himself has called the best place to work in the country.
Ramsey Solutions, former employees and their spouses say, is run more like a church than a business. A review of court documents, company emails and recordings of staff meetings backs up these sources’ claims that company leaders attempt to exert control over employees’ personal lives.
In a sarcastic email responding to a request for comment on this story, Ramsey Solutions wrote, “We want to confirm for you that you are right, we are horrible evil people.”
In the spring of 2020, Heather Fulk’s husband, Jon, was working as a developer for Ramsey Solutions, a job that offered great co-workers and a family-friendly schedule. The company’s mission, too, was something Jon could believe in, his wife said.
Heather was more skeptical. For one thing, there was the spousal interview. In his 2011 book “EntreLeadership,” Ramsey recommends that companies vet spouses to make sure their hire is not “married to crazy.”
Talk about an invasion of privacy. On that last point alone, who is the arbiter of “crazy”? What if a spouse has anxiety, depression, or some other mental illness? Or any kind of “past”? So much for a company based on values like grace and forgiveness.
Speaking of grace and forgiveness, Ramsey also fired an employee for getting pregnant out of wedlock (she later sued him). Did it not occur to Ramsey that the real victim in that situation would be the innocent baby, whose mother no longer has a salary to pay for things like food, diapers, and rent? There’s also the obvious double standard in play: If a man who works for the company impregnates someone else out of wedlock, couldn’t he avoid punishment if his sin isn’t visible?
Ramsey also encourages employees to act as watchdogs when off the clock, turning in their coworkers for social media posts that even hint at criticism of the company — even promising financial bounties for it. The wife of a Ramsey Solutions employee learned this the hard way when she commented about her fear of him returning to work during a second COVID wave when he could’ve easily done his job from home. She made that comment on a friend’s private Facebook post. But a single screenshot of that comment was all it took for her husband to be terminated from the company.
Another employee said she was viewed with suspicion for wearing a mask to work — it was seen as a sign of not trusting her employers. Yet another employee and his spouse were required to work with a therapist as a result of his infidelity, but they were told to waive confidentiality with that therapist so Ramsey Solutions could monitor the progress. The couple eventually divorced, but not before the wife was hounded by Ramsey’s employees.
Simply put, Ramsey seems like a terrible boss. It’s a public company run like a private ministry. But legally speaking, he’s well within his rights to act like a pastor:
Stuart Lark, a Colorado Springs attorney who advises nonprofits on personnel issues and religious accommodations, said that in recent years, the courts have supported the religious exercise rights of commercial employers.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has expressly held that employers do not forfeit their religious exercise rights when they enter the commercial marketplace,” said Lark. He thinks that for-profit companies whose owners have strong religious beliefs may be exempt from Title VII in some cases.
On his leadership blog, Ramsey has defended his rights to enforce a moral code and to fire people for things like extramarital affairs. “I’ve got a right to tell my employees whatever I want to tell them,” he wrote. “They freaking work for me.”
You should seriously read the email his company sent Smietana in response to a perfectly reasonable request for comment. Ramsey’s team blamed the reporter for asking questions at all, denied the accuracy of the stories without ever explaining what’s wrong with them, and peppered everything with a heavy dose of unnecessary sarcasm. Here’s a sample:
… We want to confirm for you that you are right, we are horrible evil people. We exist to simply bring harm to our team, take advantage of our customers, and spread COVID. And YOU figured it all out, wow. Who would have guessed that an unemployed guy, oh I am sorry, a “freelance reporter” would be the one to show us how horrible we are so we can change and to let the world know of our evil intent, secrets, and complete disregard for decency…..but YOU did it, you with all your top notch investigative skills have been able to weave together a series of half-truths to expose our evil ways. You are truly amazing.
If that’s the way Ramsey treats people he doesn’t know, it’s likely worse among people he feels more comfortable around.
Ramsey has no doubt helped many people get out of debt — there’s a reason he has a brand at all — but he has little understanding or compassion for people who fell into debt through no fault of their own. There’s a reason his website once posted an article about the habits of rich people… that essentially rested on the assumption that people have plenty of money to begin with.
There are plenty of financial experts out there that don’t come with a side of toxicity and gaslighting. Christians would be wise to work with them instead.