Friday, December 2, 2022

WIRTW #652: the “caroling” edition

I love a good Christmas song. The problem is that too many of them are just not very good. Today, I'm adding one to your holiday music playlist that is sure to stick with you like the best kind of earworm.

I Don't Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime Is Here) is from The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (streaming on Disney+). The fact that it's performed by my friends and favorite band, Old 97's, is irrelevant to just how much a banger of Christmas tune this is. If you've seen the special, you've also seen the band; they're the alien band performing their songs on screen.

Here's guitarist Ken Bethea reflecting to D Magazine about the coolest part of the experience of filming the special at Marvel's studios outside of Atlanta:

The coolest part was at the end, when the props designer led us into his office and showed us Captain America's shield, Thor's hammer, Doctor Strange's necklace, and Black Widow's batons. I asked if I could hold them and he said, "Absolutely." So I picked up—dare I say wielded—the shield and hammer, which together weighed about 80 pounds. For one shining moment, I could feel the envy of a billion Marvel fans. 

And here's what Director James Gunn told The Hollywood Reporter about working with his favorite band:

These guys are the greatest guys in the world, but they had to be in hell because people complain so much about that makeup when they're in it. But they never once complained. They were singing and playing their instruments for eight hours, and they just kept going and going and going, cut after cut. So they were amazing. They're just the greatest guys, not to mention the greatest music. So I hope this turns a lot more people on to the Old 97's.

I couldn't agree with James Gunn more.

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

Thursday, December 1, 2022

VOTE for the Worst Employer of 2022

It's the most wonderful time of the year. I've made my list. I've checked it twice. Now it's time to find out who's naughtiest and not very nice. It's voting time for The Worst Employer of 2022.

I've culled my list of 14 nominees down to the worst 7 as finalists. This year I'm using Ranked Choice Voting to find a winner.  

How does Ranked Choice Voting work?

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Paper plant settles case of egregious racial harassment with EEOC for $385,000

Packaging Corporation of America has agreed to pay the EEOC $385,000 to settle the racial harassment claims of two African American employees. 

The allegations are egregious (per the EEOC's news release).

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Is God anti-union?

Thomas Ross, a security officer employed by Allied Universal in San Francisco, has filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC against Service Employees International Union officials and his employer for forcing him to join and financially support the union after he told both that his religious beliefs forbid union support.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, an employee can be forced to join a labor union and pay union dues whether or not he or she supports that union or any union. If, however, the employee happens to work in one of the 27 states with right to work laws, he or she cannot be forced to join or pay. California is not one of those states. Thus, Ross claims that his employer and the SEIU should have reasonably accommodated his sincerely held religious belief that union membership violates his Christian beliefs.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

There’s nothing wrong about wanting not to have fun at work

A French employee, fired for refusing to participate in after-work drinks and other "team building" activities, has won the legal right "not to be fun" at work.

The man, named in his lawsuit only as "Mr. T," was fired for "professional incompetence" — specifically his refusal to adhere to the company's "fun" values. According to the Court of Cassation (France's highest court), the company's "fun" values included regular obligatory social events that included "excessive alcoholism encouraged by colleagues who made very large quantities of alcohol available," plus "practices pushed by colleagues involving promiscuity, bullying, and incitement to various excesses."

Friday, November 18, 2022

WIRTW #651: the “thankful” edition

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I'd take a moment to say a few thank-yous, as I have a lot for which to be thankful.

🙏 Thank you to all of my readers, followers, and commenters, here and on LinkedIn and Twitter (for as long as Twitter remains a thing). We might not always agree, but if we did it would be crazy boring. 

🙏 Thank you to all of the bad employers, who continue to act before they think (or don't think at all) and provide me content for all of my posts.

🙏 Thank you to my law firm, which supports my online fancies. They hired me to run our labor and employment practice, and didn't bat an eye when I expressed an intent to spread my wings into craft beer law

🙏 Thank you to all of the organizations that invited me to speak in 2022, and a special shoutout to Business Management Daily, which hosts my monthly column and for which I'll be speaking monthly next year. Also, if you want to toast a beer with me, look for me at the Ohio Craft Brewers Conference in Cleveland from 1/30 – 2/1, and at the national Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville from 5/7 – 5/10.

🙏 Thank you to my family, who continue to support my career.

🙏 Thank you to my daughter, Norah, who still wants to create a podcast with her dad. As for our podcast, our newest episode addresses all things Thanksgiving, or at least all things Thanksgiving that matter, including food, food, food, parades, football, family, and food. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Overcast, Stitcher, our website, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2022

I have zero sympathy for insubordinate employees who are fired

This is how it started.

This is how it's ended (for now).

In the intervening 48 hours, Elon Musk reportedly fired dozens of Twitter employees who criticized him publicly on Twitter and privately in the company's Slack channel. The first to go was Eric Frohnhoefer, a Twitter engineer who publicly challenged Musk's knowledge of how the app's backend actually works. Other employees, like this one, took to Mastodon to challenge Musk's termination of Frohnhoefer in obscenity laced rants.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The 14th (and final) nominee for the “Worst Employer of 2022” is … the slumlord supervisor

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

That's the language of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. Someone needs to provide Emmanuel Polanco, principal of MS 80 in the Bronx, a civics refresher. He's accused of shaking down a group of 10 teachers assigned to his school from a Department of Education program that brought teachers from the Dominican Republic to teach bilingual education in city schools.

It's the details of the shakedown, however, that will shake you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

EEOC Commissioner targets companies offering employees abortion travel benefits

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that ended federal constitutional protections for abortions as a fundamental right, many employers in states in which abortions suddenly became illegal started offering employees out of state travel benefits for abortion access.

Now, not even five months later, Bloomberg Law reports that Republican EEOC Commissioner Andrea Lucas has launched targeted discrimination investigations against at least three of those companies. 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Corporate lawyers represent the company, not its employees

News broke last week of Elon Musk's lawyer reassuring Twitter's remaining employees that they should not worry about potential criminal liability for FTC violations the company may have committed in failing to abide by a 2021 consent order with the agency.

In and of itself, that sentence may seem innocuous enough … until you stop, think, and break down the parties involved. The CEO's lawyer was talking to Twitter's employees who are not his clients.

Friday, November 11, 2022

WIRTW #650: the “Mastodon” edition

Call me a Twitter Armageddon Prepper. I'm not ready to abandon Twitter … yet. Even with Elon Musk in charge, I have 14 years and way too much human capital invested to jump ship even I think the Chief Twitterer is a twit.

But I'm also not convinced that Musk won't burn the whole platform to the ground. He's laid off half of the company's employees, some of whom are warning that the website is "built on sticks, and might … fall apart." Advertisers (along with their crucial revenue) are fleeing it in droves. Musk is banning users in a manner that is antithetical to his "free speech" ethos. The company's cybersecurity chief quit, along with its head of trust and safety, chief privacy officer, and chief compliance officer. Heck, even the Muppets quit. And in news that should surprise no one, Musk's paid account verification system is an absolute mess. We're all aboard the digital Titanic.

The Bird is a hot mess, and not in a "rising phoenix" kind of way. It's more of a "deep-fried turkey that boils over and burns the house down" kind of way. Or a "Twitter will soon be bankrupt" kind of way.

Thus, I've been looking for an alternative … just in case. Like many, I've landed on Mastodon as a potential Twitter replacement.

Mastodon is a microblogging platform similar to Twitter in many ways. 
  • Mastodon has toots (compared to Twitter's tweets).
  • Toots are limited to 500 characters (compared to Twitter's 280).
  • You can favorite and boost other user's posts (as compared to liking and retweeting), but you can't quote.
  • Hashtags are still hashtags.
  • Mastodon's layout, look, and feel will appear very familiar on the web and on its mobile app to anyone who's ever used Twitter. Updates, however, are sorted chronologically instead of algorithmically 
The key difference, however, exists on Mastodon's backend. Mastodon isn't its own standalone website. Instead, it's a series of connected private servers that communicate with each other. When you sign up for a Mastodon account, you sign up to become a member of a particular server, privately hosted and moderated, and not part of Mastodon as a social media platform. Because all of the servers communicate with each other and you see posts from any server, as best as I can tell it doesn't necessarily matter the server to which you belong, and you're always free to switch servers at any time. 

And that's all I know. My account is parked at If you decide to give Mastodon a try, let me know by following me, and I'll be sure to follow you back.

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

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Muckenfuss makes a mask fuss

Michael Muckenfuss worked in maintenance at a Tyson Fresh Meats facility. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the town's mayor instituted an executive order mandating the wearing of masks, which Tyson enforced inside the workplace. Muckenfuss presented Tyson with a note from his health care provider requesting that he wear a cloth mask with a filter instead of a surgical mask as a reasonable accommodation for his asthma. Tyson agreed to the accommodation. Muckenfuss later sued, however, claiming that Tyson kept the mask mandate in place, along with his filtered mask, after the Covid executive order expired.  

He brought his claim not under the ADA, but under a provision of the Indiana Code that prohibits an employer from requiring as a condition of employment that an employee implant, inject, ingest, inhale, or incorporate an acoustic, optical, mechanical, electronic, medical, or molecular device into their body. Muckenfuss claimed that the face mask qualified as a such a device, and that Tyson violated the statute by requiring that he wear it on his face. 

The trial court had little difficulty in dismissing this claim.

This statute was aimed to prohibit the introduction of a device "into" the body. Wearing a mask on one's face isn't that.… Mr. Muckenfuss invites an interpretation that would render this statute absurd.… [H]is interpretation would suddenly prohibit all sorts of sensible mandates by employers. No longer could a company require a bleeding employee from wearing a bandage or band-aid "against" his wound. No longer could a company require an employee to wear a protective glove, or work boots, or goggles, or many types of personal protective equipment because they were likewise designed to be used "against" the body.

As this case illustrates, any employee can sue their employer for some alleged legal violation for just about any employment decision. The issue isn't whether you can be sued, but whether the decisions you made put you in the best position to defend that lawsuit if and when it comes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

How to conduct a layoff

Elon Musk did everything wrong with his employees upon his acquisition of Twitter, including laying off half of them via email. With the economy turning sour, more businesses will be facing the stark reality of having to shed headcount. If you need to layoff some of your employees, do you know what to do? Here are four tips (excluding bonus tip number 5 — call your employment lawyer).

Tuesday, November 8, 2022


Growing up, I loved Election Day. My elementary school was a polling place, which meant that I got the day off from school. My parents would take me with them into the school auditorium where all of the voting machines were lined up down front. 

As much as I loved Election Day, I also loved the old school voting machines used. Each came with a giant red lever that you'd slide to the right to close the curtain behind you and slide again to the left to record your ballot when finished and open the curtain. I can still hear the sound of that lever clanking into place echoing through the Loesche Elementary School auditorium, a sound that I will forever equate with democracy at work.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Would you fire this employee?

Over the weekend, I asked a simple question on LinkedIn: "Would you fire this employee?"

The employee in question took to LinkedIn to celebrate Elon Musk's dismantling of Blackbirds. Blackbirds was an Employee Resource Group for Black Twitter employees to support them, foster their development, and provide them a safe space within the company.

Friday, November 4, 2022

WIRTW #649: the “Ye” edition

We need to talk about Kanye. 

In the wake of his rampant and unapologetic antisemitism, people are hanging antisemitic banners on highway overpasses and projecting antisemitic slogans on the side of college football stadiums, others are dressing up like Hitler and other Nazis for Halloween, and famed Covid-denier and flat-earther Kyrie Irving is sharing a movie full of antisemitic tropes. 

Employers need to take a firm stand against hatred. Now is not the time to stand idly by. 

Anti-Semitism is wrong. 

White supremacy is wrong. 

Racism is wrong. 

Xenophobia is wrong. 

Homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia are wrong. 

Hard stop. 

Anyone displaying this hate, whether inside or outside of work, should be fired. 

Any idiot is free to say whatever he or she wants. But as an employer, I am free to hold that idiot accountable for his or her ignorant hatred. Actions have consequences, and until we start holding people accountable for theirs, we are signaling that this is okay, that this is normal. It's far from okay or normal. It's disgusting and deplorable. 

Silence in the wake of hate at best condones the hate, and at worst participates in it. If it's my business, I choose not to stay silent.

Here's what I read/listened to this past week that you should also read/listen to:

Thursday, November 3, 2022

The 13th nominee for the “Worst Employer of 2022” is … the slaughtering supervisor

There's retaliation … and then there's murder. 

A federal court jury recently returned a unanimous guilty verdict against Juan Rangel-Rubio for murdering a whistleblower who exposed a multi-million-dollar scheme to fraudulently employ undocumented workers. His two co-defendants—Rangel-Rubio's brother, Pablo, and Higinio Perez-Bravo—await sentencing after pleading guilty for their role in the murder conspiracy. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

If your surveilling employees, the NLRB is watching you

Wearable trackers. Security cameras. GPS trackers. Keyloggers. Live webcam monitoring. Technology has made it easier for employers to monitor and manage their employees' productivity and discipline employees who fall short of expectations. Moreover, technology makes it possible for employers to continue tracking employees after the workday ends via employer-issued cellphone or wearable devices, and apps installed in employees' own devices.  

Employers are monitoring employees, and the NLRB is monitoring employers' use of these monitoring technologies.

NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo just issued a memo on Electronic Monitoring and Algorithmic Management of Employees Interfering with the Exercise of Section 7 Rights.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Pretext for termination ≠ cause for termination

Shortly after Elon Musk closed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, he cleaned out its C-suite. He fired CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, CLO Vijaya Gadde, and general counsel Sean Edgett. 

This is not all that unusual. A new owner of a company should feel 100 percent comfortable with his executive team, and if Musk wasn't totally comfortable with that quartet running Twitter, then it's his prerogative to replace them. 

Employees who hold positions of authority such as CEO and CFO usually have employment agreements, and those agreements typically contain severance payouts if the agreements are terminated "without cause" prior to their natural expiration. This group of Twitter execs appear to be no different, and reports suggest that their agreements called for severance payouts totaling $122 million.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Are unions cool (again)?

Are unions cool again? Were they ever cool? 

On the most recent episode of Good Morning, HR, I sat down with host Mike Coffey to discuss the current wave of unionization that is sweeping the nation.
  • The main factors causing a renewed focus on unionization.
  • How Gen-Z has been energized to pursue safe and fair workplace environments.
  • The signs that employees are ready to unionize.
  • The best way that employers can avoid unionization.
  • Actions employers should take when faced with an organization effort.
  • The limits of employers and organizers during a union campaign.
You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, on the Good Morning, HR website, and everywhere else you get your podcasts. You can even watch on YouTube.

To whet your appetite, here's a quick tease. I answer the question, "What should the employer do when they first get wind that there's card collection activity going on?"