Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Coronavirus Update 10-28-2020: The 10th nominee for the “worst employer of 2020” is … the whistleblower whacker

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, describes itself as "the foremost expert, convener, and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces." Physician, heal thyself!

According to a recent lawsuit filed against SHRM (as reported by The New Yorker), SHRM may have a huge whistleblower retaliation problem on its hands.

Here are the key allegations, which SHRM denies:
  • Bailey Yeager, a former director-level employee with a history of glowing performance reviews and promotions, expressed concern when the organization asked her in May for feedback about its proposal to return employees to the office after two months of working from home.
  • Expressing concern about potentially infecting her two daughters, she requested that she be allowed to continue working remotely "until returning to work is both more widespread regionally and there is a decline in the metrics regarding cases/hospitalizations."
  • She also asked to see SHRM's plans for reopening safely. 
  • Two weeks later she, along with three other employees who had expressed similar concerns (including two with pre-existing medical conditions), were fired. 
  • According to her OSHA complaint, SHRM CEO Johnny Taylor held a conference call during which he outlined plans to "outsource" job functions in departments in which employees had expressed resistance to returning to work in person.
  • Yeager's complaint also alleges that Taylor bragged that he had spoken to his friend Eugene Scalia, the Secretary of Labor, and that an OSHA representative contacted Yeager to implore her to withdraw her complaint. (To be fair, it unclear if there is any nexus between Taylor's call to Secretary Scalia and OSHA's call to Yeager, but it is definitely implied in her complaint).
If you fire employees who dare ask for the ability to continue working from home, and potentially wield your influence with the government in an attempt to leverage the dismissal of the resulting lawsuit, while at the same time holding yourself out as the "foremost expert on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces," you might be the worst employer of 2020.