Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Coincidence ≠ causation

An employer terminates a group of 14 employees within six weeks after learning that they were discussing unionizing.

Despite the timing of the mass termination of these employees, the 8th Circuit — in Strategic Technology Institute v. NLRB — reversed and concluded that anti-union animus did not motivate the terminations. 

Critical to the court's ruling was a lack of any evidence of anti-union animus other than the coincidental timing.

While this court considers the timing of terminations in evaluating improper motive, it typically does so when the record also contains some direct evidence of anti-union animus. Here, there is no direct evidence of animus. The timing of these firings does not reasonably infer an improper motive. Boyd [the manager and decision maker] learned of potential union activity on August 30, but took no action against the 14 employees until September 20, when he asked Kiihnl [the site supervisor] to rank the employees. Boyd asked Kiihnl for the rankings within a day of learning of [safety and performance] corrective action reports [provided the Air Force, a key customer] and began recruiting replacements. Just over two weeks after receiving the rankings (when Kiihnl returned from vacation), he carried out the terminations.

Coincidence might equal causation, but then again it might not. As this case correctly points out, when employees claim retaliation, coincidence without evidence of a retaliatory motive does not equal causation.

"If you vote, you have no right to complain." That's George Carlin's famous quote about voting. 

He's 100% correct. So don't complain; vote … for this year's Worst Employer.

Polls close at 11:59 pm ET tonight. Thereafter, I'll let Ranked Choice Voting do its thing and start eliminating finalists until I'm left with the one to declare this year's winner. 

I'll be announcing 2023's Worst Employer on Dec. 20.