Category Archives: Labor Law

Quirky Question #279: Concerted Activity in 140 Characters or Less

Question: I am a manager in a medium-sized retailer that has locations and employees in 16 states.  The company maintains a social media policy, which was recently updated.  Last week, I noticed that one of our employees posted some pretty nasty things about the company on Twitter.  She accused the company of not treating employees fairly because some had to work on days when others did not.  Perhaps worse, in response to customers who were praising the company’s products and services, she basically called the company cheap by saying it did not provide good pay or benefits.  I have not noticed any reaction from other employees to the tweets, but I am worried they will hurt employee morale and possibly drive away customers.  Is there anything I should consider before disciplining the employee who tweeted these things?

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Quirky Question #269: Like it or Not – Facebook Post Protected Under the NLRA

Question: I own a small manufacturing company that employs 25-35 employees, depending on our workload.  Over the years, a number of my customers and my employees have “friended” me on Facebook.  Last week, I saw that one of our employees had posted a comment that I don’t pay enough overtime and that I’m, “f—ing cheap,” because I don’t give enough paid vacation.  Almost worse, I saw that three other employees “liked” the post.  I work hard to treat my employees fairly, and to ensure that I staff adequately so that employees do not need to work overtime.  I’m afraid this post is going to hurt employee morale, and I’d like to fire the employee who posted and the ones who liked the post.  Is there anything I should consider?

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NLRB Published Report Concerning Employee Handbook Rules and Policies

On March 18, 2015, NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin published a Report concerning recent case developments arising in the context of employee handbook rules and policies. The thirty-page Report concludes that many commonly-used policies, if not phrased carefully, may have a chilling effect on Section 7 rights to engage in concerted activity. The policies critiqued by  General Counsel Griffin include, among others, confidentiality policies, employee conduct policies, media policies, trademark and copyright use policies, and conflict of interest policies. The Report’s broad interpretation of potential “reasonable” understandings of handbook provisions concludes that policies such as “be respectful of others and the Company” violate the NLRA. Given the NLRB’s increased focus on handbook policies and this Report’s conclusions regarding a number of frequently utilized policies, employers – even those with employees not represented by labor unions – should carefully review their handbooks to avoid NLRB scrutiny.

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Quirky Question #245, Last chance agreements

Question:

We operate a manufacturing plant with a union workforce where new employees begin with a 90-day probationary period during which they are not yet members of the union. I recently hired a guy who refused to work overtime on several occasions, so I had him sign a “last chance” agreement in which he agreed that any further unexcused refusals would result in the termination of his employment. I also had him agree that he would not be able to grieve that termination because it would be based on his behavior that occurred during his non-union probationary period. As you could predict, last week after his probationary period ended and he joined the union, he refused to work overtime on Saturday. I plan to discharge him, but I’m worried that he’ll still grieve the discharge through the union and win his job back. What’s your advice? Answer→

Quirky Question #241, Working for Free In Montana At A Start-Up Business

Question:

I was laid off by my Montana employer and I have decided to help my brother with his start up business. I will be a 50% owner but we are not going to take a salary until revenue is substantial. An accountant friend tells me that my work for free for the start-up may disqualify me for the unemployment benefits I am currently receiving. This cannot be right. I have paid into the unemployment system for years and I am not receiving any wages. Answer→

Quirky Question #229, The Not-Clear-Cut Case for Canning a Cussing Worker

Question:

I’m the owner of a small record store. I have 13 sales clerks and 4 back room employees. Things aren’t great these days – but we get by. Fortunately, while people listen to music on their phones and the internet way more than they do CDs, we’ve refocused ourselves toward vintage record collectors and hardware sales.

I just fired a sales clerk last week for what I thought was pretty obviously unacceptable behavior. He started complaining to me the other day about the way I pay commissions. I pay my sales clerks $10 per hour plus a small commission on certain items in the store. For instance, if they move a record-player, or a set of headphones, or a tube amplifier, they get 2% of the sale in their next check. Because this guy worked on the day shifts, he felt like he did not have as good a shot at selling the big-ticket pieces of equipment, which are often sold in the evening. He pestered me for weeks to reduce the commissions on the hardware, and to give him a commission on the used records that he sells during the day in order to make it more “fair” for him. On Thursday we were working together for most of the day, and he would not stop bringing it up with me. I kept telling him that I preferred not to talk about things like that when customers were around, and that I would talk to him about it later. About ten minutes before his shift ended, he blew up, and in front of a half-dozen customers started shouting, “You f@&%ing jerk! You just want to keep all the big commissions for yourself! I should kick your a@@! Who f@&%ing puts up with this bull$#!t!” Then he threw a box of cds at me, which smashed into the front desk and scattered all over the place. The customers were freaked out. I was furious.

Obviously, I fired him on the spot. The next day, he sent me an email claiming he had been talking to some lawyers (aka doing Google searches), and that what I did was a violation of something called the NLRA. He claims that unless I write him a big check, he’s going to file a lawsuit with the National Labor Relations Board, and “knock your sorry a@$ out of business.”

What on earth is he talking about? There’s no union in my store – why is he talking about the “National Labor Relations Board?” Not to mention, the guy launched into a cuss-word laden tirade at me in front of a bunch of our customers. Surely I can fire him for that, can’t I? Answer→