Friday, September 23, 2022

WIRTW #643: the “til I hear it from you” edition

It's been a busy week, both in the practice of law and in the recording of some podcasts for your listening pleasure.

As for the other half of The Norah and Dad Show, you can see her perform tonight at Baxter's Speakeasy in Akron and next Friday, Sept. 30, at The Olde Wine Cellar in Olmsted Falls. Both shows are free, although Baxter's has a one-drink minimum, and The Olde Wine Cellar would prefer if you buy a bottle of wine and a flatbread to consume while you enjoy the music.

Here's what I read this past week that I think you should be reading, too.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

“Pretextual investigation” dooms employer’s defense to ex-employee’s retaliation claim

An employee, Joseph Canada, uses his cell phone to solicit sex from prostitutes during work hours. His employer, Samuel Grossi & Sons, discovers the text messages and terminates the employee for violating its policies against "[u]nlawful conduct which adversely affects the employee's relationship on his/her job, fellow employees, supervisor and/or damages the Company's property, reputation or goodwill in the community" and "[i]mmoral or indecent conduct."

The employee then sues for retaliation, claiming that the termination was in retaliation for filing another lawsuit the month prior claiming discrimination and FMLA violations.

The district court dismissed the retaliation claim, stating that "[n]o reasonable jury could conclude that defendant's proffered nondiscriminatory and nonretaliatory reason for terminating plaintiff's employment was pretextual."

On appeal, however, the 3rd Circuit concluded that the reason for the termination is irrelevant if the investigation that leads to the discovery of the evidence that causes the termination was pretexual in and of itself.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The 11th nominee for the “Worst Employer of 2022” is … the cable guy

When 83-year-old Betty Jo Thomas missed her family's Christmas dinner in December 2019, they went to her home to check up on her. They found her stabbed to death on her living room floor. Footage from Thomas' Ring doorbell revealed that the last person to enter her home was Roy Holden, a (now former) Charter Spectrum field technician.

Holden had performed a service call in Ms. Thomas' home. The next day Holden returned, allegedly off-duty but in his company-issued and branded van, to again help Thomas. While in her home, Thomas caught Holden stealing credit cards from her purse. In response, Holden brutally stabbed her with his Charter Spectrum utility knife and went on a spending spree with her stolen credit cards.

Holden has since been convicted of the murder and is now serving out a life prison sentence.

Thomas' family sued Charter Spectrum over its responsibility for her murder. After a mere two hours of deliberations, a jury recently returned a $7.3375 billion verdict ($337.5 million in compensatory damages and $7 billion in punitive damages). That's more than half of the company's entire quarterly revenue.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Employers, repeat after me: “Tips belong to employees, not employers.”

$1,351,253.34. That's the amount a federal judge has ordered the Empire Diner, its owner, Ihsan Gunaydin, and its manager Engin Gunaydin to pay a group of 107 servers and kitchen workers based on an illegal tip scheme.

What rendered the restaurant's tip scheme illegal? It required servers to turn over 10 to 15 percent of their total tips received on any given shift to pay the bussers' wages. That's a clear violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Monday, September 19, 2022

The NLRB is inching towards Weingarten Rights for all employees

In NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court held that employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement are entitled to request the presence of a union representative during an investigatory interview that the employee reasonably believes may result in disciplinary action. 

In the 47 years post-Weingarten, however, the Board has vacillated on the issue of whether those rights also extend to non-union employees. For example, in 2000, in Epilepsy Foundation of Northeast Ohio, the Clinton-era Board found that employees in non-union settings have Weingarten rights to a coworker representative during investigatory interviews. More recently, however, the Bush-era Board, in IBM Corp., concluded the exact opposite, that, in light of certain policy considerations, the Board would no longer find that employees in non-union workplaces have the right to a coworker representative. Finally, in 2017, an Obama-era Board Advice Memo called for the Board to flip again and hold Weingarten rights extend to employees in non-union workplaces.

Which brings us to last week's Board decision in Troy Grove

Friday, September 16, 2022

WIRTW #642: the “get off our backs” edition

Can you please get off our backs? By "our," I mean management-side labor lawyers. 

Let me explain.

I just finished listening to the latest episode of the 43-15 Podcast discussing the first group of Petco employees to attempt to organize into a labor union. The hosts were all over the "union busting lawyer" Petco hired to represent it and challenge the employees' organizing. His major sin: "Counseling many companies on labor strategy, union avoidance, and responding to union backed corporate campaigns." Heavens to Betsy, a lawyer doing … wait for it … his job.

Like any other attorney, management-side labor lawyers have a job to do and an ethical obligation to represent their clients zealously. Union organizing and recognition is a decided in an election, in which a majority of employees need to choose to unionize. What are employers supposed to do, roll over and let the union walk in unimpeded? As their lawyers we are simply playing our roll in this process. That's all. Is it adversarial? Sure. Does it sometimes get heated? Of course. But management is entitled to be represented just as do the employees seeking to unionize.

Don't hate the player, hate the game. That's all I'm saying.

Here's what I read and listened to this past week that I think you should be reading and listening to, too.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Pre-employment pregnancy testing?

I was tagged on Twitter to address this situation.

My friend did a drug test for a part time job for the local school district. When she got her results, she found out that the district also did a pregnancy test. Besides ethical issues, this seems like a legal red flag given she wasn't told this would be done.
The OP added that her friend's spouse (male) did the same screening for the same employer, but no pregnancy test.

If it looks illegal, and it smells illegal, then it's illegal. Let's examine why.