Thursday, June 2, 2022

Mere "discouragement" is enough to state an FMLA interference claim, federal appeals court holds

"You've taken serious amounts of FMLA … don't take any more FMLA. If you do so, you will be disciplined."

That's what Salvatore Ziccarelli, a corrections officer with the Cook County Sheriff's Office suffering from PTSD, claimed that the FMLA manager, Wylola Shinnawi, told him upon expressing his intent to enter an eight-week in-patient treatment program. 

Based on that conversation (the substance of which Shinnawi disputed), Ziccarelli decided to retire … and sue his employer and Shinnawi for FMLA interference.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Do you know? Unfair labor practice strikes

Workers who recently organized a Peoria, Illinois, Starbucks walked off the job on a recent Saturday in protest of alleged unfair labor practice committed by their employer at the store. The strike lasted a half-day and there are reports of similar strikes at other stores around the country. quotes one employee on the picket line, Jon Gill, "Starbucks is breaking the law. Starbucks is retaliating against us, and if we do not organize ourselves to fight back, then we are showing Starbucks that we are allowing them to break the law."

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Union yes? Employees, be careful what you wish for.

On Jan. 7, Great Lakes Coffee Roasting in Detroit temporarily closed following a Covid outbreak that sidelined nine employees. It never reopened, and now it's closed permanently.

What happened? A labor union happened.

Friday, May 27, 2022

WIRTW #627: the “you’re 16” edition

Everyone please wish my smart, compassionate, talented, beautiful, kick-ass daughter a happy 16th birthday!!!
Here's what I read this past week that I think you should read, too.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Explaining the “Golden Age of Union Organizing”

Unions aren't just having a moment, they are having their best moment in at least 50 years.

  • What has caused the "perfect storm" of union organizing that employers are currently experiencing?
  • How have the White House's policies impacted unionization and collective bargaining?
  • What explains the trend of smaller, "in-house" unions, such as those seen at Starbucks and Amazon?
  • How should employers assess their labor strategies in response to these changes?

This week, I joined the ProjectHR Podcast to discuss The Golden Age of Union Organizing, the forces that are helping to cause it, and how employers should be responding and reacting.

Here's a preview of what you'll hear in the episode.

You can listen to the entire episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Breaches of confidentiality during internal investigations chill future reports of workplace misconduct

"Nothing you share will be attributed to you and your feedback will remain anonymous."

That's what an HR consultant advised employees of BrewDog prior to their participation in an anonymous workplace culture review of the international brewing company.

Kate Bernot reports at Good Beer Hunting, however, that at least one former employee who participated discovered that her personal information was provided to company leadership.
Charlotte Cook says her name and details of conversations about her time at BrewDog—which focused on workplace safety, problems with human resources, and the circumstances under which she left the company—were provided by [HR consultant] Wiser to BrewDog without her knowledge or consent.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Court upholds termination of employee for off-duty Facebook posts critical of Black Lives Matter

"Black lives" matter causes segregation. Have you ever hear[d] of "white lives" matter or "[J]ewish" lives matter[?] No. Equal opportunity.
That's what Heather McVey posted to her personal Facebook account in the wake of George Floyd's murder and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests.

An administrator of the hospital at which McVey worked as a nurse discovered her post, and, following an investigation the hospital fired her. Its stated reason was that "she posted on her social media a clearly racist dog whistle post, which was inconsistent with the vision and the mission and the core values of AtlantiCare."

Monday, May 23, 2022

Federal court holds that the NLRB doesn’t have a sense of humor

On June 6, 2019, unionized employees of Vox Media, a left-leaning digital media company, walked off the job during union contract negotiations. That same day, Ben Domenech, executive officer of FDRLST Media and publisher of The Federalist (which is the direct opposite of left-leaning), posted this tweet from his personal Twitter account: "FYI @fdrlst first one of you tries to unionize I swear I’ll send you back to the salt mine."

Following the filing of an unfair labor practice charge by someone with absolutely no relationship with FDRLST Media (employment or otherwise), the NLRB concluded that Domenech's tweet violated employees' rights to unionize or otherwise engage in protected concerted activity, agreeing with the administrative law judge that the tweet was an "obvious threat" that "working conditions would worsen or employee benefits would be jeopardized if employees attempted to unionize." 

Friday, May 20, 2022

WIRTW #626: the “seminar/webinar” edition

If you're located in Northeast Ohio and don't have our upcoming Wickens Workshop on your calendar, why not? I, along with two of my colleagues, will be tackling the key wage and hour issues facing your business. We'll be joined by Mark D'Agostino of ConnectedHR, who will moderate the panel discussion

Here are the details:
  • When: Thurs., June 9
  • Light Breakfast: 8 am
  • Program: 8:30 - 10 am
  • Location: Main Event Avon, 35605 Chester Road
  • Cost: Free
Space is limited. Register here by June 2.

If you're not in Northeast Ohio, or you're also looking for a virtual event to attend, on Wednesday, May 26, from 11a - noon, I'll be presenting the webinar Think Before You Click for HR Acuity, discussing the legal and practical impact of social media on your workplace. This webinar is also free. Register here. Bonus: HR Acuity will donate $10 for each person who registers to the Global Giving Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund and the National Network of Abortion Funds.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Do we need labor unions anymore?

When I challenge the continued viability of labor unions and the lack of benefits they offer to or confer upon 21st century employees, this is the refrain I often hear.

Minimum wage ✔️
Overtime ✔️
OSHA ✔️  
Child labor protections ✔️
Anti-discrimination laws ✔️ 

None of those laws, I'm told, would exist without the historic efforts put forth by labor unions. 

You know what? That statement is 100 percent correct. Labor unions played a huge role in the passage of the FLSA, OSHA, ERISA, and Title VII, each of which granted a wealth of new rights and protections to employees.

They also help render labor unions irrelevant. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

How do you handle employees talking about “replacement theory” at work?

The "Great Replacement" is a conspiracy theory that certain leftist political forces are bringing non-whites into the United States and other Western countries to "replace" white voters to achieve their political agenda. It is often tied to anti-immigration groups and white supremacists. It's also the motivation that caused Payton Gendron to shoot 13 Black individuals in a Buffalo supermarket this past weekend, killing 10.

It's also way more mainstream than you might think or want to believe, with certain mainstream media outlets substituting its traditional racist and antisemitic underpinnings, including the use of terms of "white genocide" and "Jewish cabal," with a more politically focused narrative. Indeed, one in three Americans believe in "replacement theory."

How do you handle it if an employee complains that co-workers are promoting the Great Replacement? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Employers, your awful stereotypes in job ads aren’t cute or clever, they’re offensive and illegal

"Meet H&N's newest assistant brewer," the Instagram post began. How nice, a brewery advertising its female-friendly work environment. 
"She always has a smile on her face and never talks back!"

Uh oh! That took quite the turn, and not for the better.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Don’t ask employees about their problems after a union comes knocking

"I'm here to listen."

It's an innocuous enough statement for management to make to employees. What could possibly go wrong when a manager tells employees she's there to "listen"?

If a union representation petition is pending, the answer is a lot.

Friday, May 13, 2022

WIRTW #625: the “war on women” edition

How do you support your female employees amid times of great uncertainty about the continued viability of their reproductive rights and body autonomy? 

On the heels on Justice Alito's leaked majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Levi Strauss & Co. published on its website the following statement.

As the pandemic has shown so clearly, public health issues are workplace issues. Business leaders are responsible for protecting the health and well-being of our employees, and that includes protecting reproductive rights and abortion access.…

Under our current benefits plan, Levi Strauss & Co. employees are eligible for reimbursement for healthcare-related travel expenses for services not available in their home state, including those related to reproductive health care and abortion. There is also a process in place through which employees who are not in our benefits plan, including part-time hourly workers, can seek reimbursement for travel costs incurred under the same circumstances.

Given what is at stake, business leaders need to make their voices heard and act to protect the health and well-being of our employees. That means protecting reproductive rights.

Levi Strauss joins other notable employers such as Amazon, Citigroup, Salesforce, and Yelp in covering employees' abortion-related travel expenses. I say bravo! 

Those are employers' responses. What about the response of a 15-year-old this opinion directly impacts? How does she feel about the Supreme Court taking away her reproductive rights and body autonomy? Listen to this week's episode of The Norah and Dad Show to find out. It's available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Stitcher, through your browser, and everywhere else you find podcasts.

(For more about the legal issues raised by the leaked opinion, I highly recommend Marc Alifanz's and Kate Bischoff's deep dive on the most recent episode of their Hostile Work Environment podcast.)

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

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Let’s play spot the issue

Let's see if you can spot the employment law issue from this story, which I've borrowed from our local police blotter.
On April 26, the owner of a bar came to the police station regarding an ex-employee who stole his daughter's AirPods.

The stealing incident, which took place in February, led the owner to track the pods to a house that just so happened to be the home of the ex-employee's sister.

That's when the owner told the employee he was withholding his last check to cover the cost of the AirPods.

The man needed a police report to document the incident and provide the state justification of docking the ex-employee $250 from his last paycheck.

What do you think? 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Your front-line employees are not security guards

A video made the rounds yesterday on Twitter of a mass of Best Buy employees foiling a shoplifting attempt with a stellar zone defense.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Don’t file criminal charges against employees who’ve engaged in protected activity

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "It is impossible to suffer without making someone pay for it; every complaint already contains revenge." Employment, however, is no place for revenge. 

Consider, for example, this hypothetical. The chief executive of BrewDog, James Watt, recently filed criminal charges against Emili Ziem, claiming that she provided false information about the person responsible for making malicious comments about Watt on social media. This comes on heels of the brewery using the EU's data privacy laws to unmask the identity of anonymous harassment complainants. 

Let's assume (although I don't believe it to be the case) that Ziem is one of the unmasked harassment complainants. Do the criminal charges filed against her by her former boss constitute unlawful retaliation under our workplace discrimination laws? 

The answer is a qualified "yes."

Monday, May 9, 2022

The NLRB is coming for your handbook (again)

  • Corrective action rules
  • A dress code
  • A prohibition on cell phone use while working
  • A social media policy
  • Confidentiality rules

These are a few of the 19 different polices contained in Starbucks  employee handbook (called its Partner Guide), which the NLRB alleges constitute "interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise" of the right of the coffee retailer's employees to form a union under the National Labor Relations Act.

Friday, May 6, 2022

WIRTW #624: the “it’s snot okay” edition

Earlier this week our country officially passed 1 million Covid-19 deaths. According to the World Health Organization, Covid's full death toll is three times higher than officially reported.

Whether the actual number is 1 million or 3 million, it's an awful milestone and a grim reminder that Covid is still out there, mutating and circulating in the community. Indeed, Covid numbers are rising nationwide, with some counties and even entire states moving back into the "high transmission" category after a short restbite. 

You'd think after two-plus years of pandemic living, people would know the rules of Covid-19 road. For example, the importance of practicing good hygiene habits and not sneezing directly into the palm of your hand

Some people, however, appear not to have received this message. For example, consider the cashier at a local Skechers store that Norah and I visited last weekend. All we wanted to do was buy her a pair of comfortable shoes to wear to her new job. Instead, we got this nasty encounter.

🤧 💦 🖐️ 🦠 😳 🤢 

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

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Why are labor unions are having their moment?

Yesterday I shared about the moment labor unions are currently having, with representation petitions surging 57% over the past six months, and 625% in the hospitality and food service industry over the past decade. 

The question is why

To be sure, toxic management, poor workplace culture, and low wages are a factor. But they are a factor anytime a labor union takes hold in a workplace. I'm looking for the reasons our current labor movement is having its moment in time.

Here are my thoughts.