The Annual Look at the Weird, Wacky and Just Plain Strange Employment Lawsuits

Category: Blog Posts
Date: Dec 5, 2017 02:08 PM
The Annual Look at the Weird, Wacky and Just Plain Strange Employment Lawsuits

It is that time again. These are actual employment cases.  Really, they are.

Mad at your co-workers? Tell a friend, not Facebook

Jayne Brill sued her former employer and the Virginia Employment Commission because she was terminated and denied unemployment benefits. Brill was alleged to have violated the company’s social media policy when she made disparaging comments about co-workers on Facebook. You may be wondering what she said that was so terrible. Well, here it is: “Today was the worst!!!!!!!!!” (Note the nine exclamation points because one was not enough.) “Thanks for helping out. Oh wait I am a team of 1 because others have meetings or they to [sic] lazy to get up to help someone.”

You may be thinking—but wait, doesn’t Brill have first amendment rights to complain publically about her employer. Actually, as an employee of a private company, she does not. Her argument, then, was that the social media policy violates the National Labor Relations Act even though she was not a union employee. The NLRA has been applied to non-union employees who engage in activity that is intended to improve the terms and conditions of employment. Whether the court will buy in to her argument remains to be seen, but her personal complaints about lazy co-workers probably would not be considered concerted activity that is intended to improve the terms and conditions of employment.

Sometimes Employers Also Do Really Dumb Things

In this case, the employer, not the employee, did some really dumb things. The chief executive officer of a construction company in northern California thought it would be a good idea to dress up as President Trump and display confederate flags around the office, along with other slogans such as “Make Southland Great.” The CEO’s wife also dressed up, holding a confederate flag-themed purse over her shoulder. They even took pictures of themselves, which appeared in the local newspaper. Smart, wasn’t it? If this weren’t bad enough, at the company holiday party, they allegedly gave the confederate flag-themed purse to a female African-American employee as a Christmas gift. Needless to say, she did not appreciate the gesture and has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging race discrimination and harassment. It sounds crazy but the photos do exist of their “office decorations” and costumes.

Licking Female Colleagues, Say What?

Remember American International Group, which was more commonly referred to as AIG? Seems their male executives may have been up to no good. According to a lawsuit filed by a former female employee, male employees are being accused of hiding under desks to look up female employees’ skirts, and for allegedly licking and groping female employees. AIG says the lawsuit is without merit. Considering the media coverage of sexual harassment over the past few months, the allegations are not necessarily far-fetched, and employers may be well advised to revisit policies and training on sexual harassment.

Peel It, Feel It, Heal It

Onionhead is a religion, according to a U.S. District Judge in New York and her whopping 102 page decision. Ten former employees of United Health Programs of America Inc. sued the company, alleging they were discriminated against because they refused to adhere to the Onionhead beliefs. What exactly are those beliefs? Imagine this. Workers were required to tell one another, “I love you.” They also were required to burn candles and read spiritual texts. United Health argued that Onionhead was not a religion but was merely a “conflict resolution tool.” Huh? The Catholic employee, who was fired when she refused to participate in the Onionhead philosophy and activities, was allowed to pursue her lawsuit for religious discrimination.  Because there is such a wide variety of religious beliefs, employers should proceed with caution when addressing issues of religion into the workplace.

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