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Apparently this guy can’t be fired after calling his boss a mofo on Facebook

(BUSINESS NEWS) A man is protected from firing after he cusses out his boss on Facebook.

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Don’t do that

Johnny Paycheck ‘s 1977 hit, “Take This Job and Shove It” encapsulated the thought of many a worker: the ability to tell one’s boss, in direct terms exactly what was thought of him, and what he could do with his job. That thought, however, typically isn’t a reality.

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Tell your boss to shove it, and you’re typically the one doing the shoving. Of all of your things. Into a little box. That you and the security guard carry downstairs on your way off of the property.

Hypothetically…

So what happens when you publicly curse your boss on social media, using rather profane language in describing them and their shortcomings as a leader? That’s automatic termination, right?

Not so fast.

In a recent case before the National Labor Relations Board, board members voted 2-1 to overturn the firing of Hernan Perez, who posted to his Facebook account that his boss “…is such a NASTY MOTHER F-ER don’t know how to talk to people!!!!!! F-k his mother and his entire f-ing family!!!! What a LOSER!!!! Vote YES for the UNION!!!!!!!”

Well, that certainly seems clear enough, and would typically warrant termination.

So what’s the difference here?

The rub

Mr. Perez was an employee of Pier Sixty in New York City and had been for 13 years. In 2011, the service employees of the company began a drive to organize as a union, a drive that company management was actively opposed to.

Two days prior to the vote, Perez’s boss mildly reprimanded him, albeit loudly in front of others, and Mr. Perez vented his frustrations to the world at large.

A month and a half later, after the union had formed, the company fired Perez after learning about the Facebook posting, stating that the comment was a violation of the company’s anti-harassment policy.

Both the NLRB and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to whom Pier Sixty had appealed after the 2-1 NLRB decision, found that Perez’s speech, although vulgar, was protected under the National Labor Relations Act as a part of union organizing activity.

“Even though Perez’s message was dominated by vulgar attacks on McSweeney and his family, the ‘subject matter’ of the message included workplace concerns – management’s allegedly disrespectful treatment of employees, and the upcoming union election,” Judge José Cabranes wrote, crafting an opinion for the triumvirate of judges.

Pier Sixty had done themselves no favors.

In attempting to curb support for the proposed union, they had created a ban on talking between employees. When Perez was told to be quiet by his boss, it wasn’t in an effort to maintain workplace decorum as much as it was to chill the organization of the union.
Additionally, the company had been incredibly lax about the tolerance of profanity in the workplace, with obscenities common among both frontline staff and company management alike, including the terms alluded to in Perez’s posting.

No employee had ever been fired for use of profanity at Pier Sixty, and averaged less than one warning for profanity per year to employees for the six years prior to Perez’s firing.

“Under the circumstances presented here, it is striking that Perez – who had been a server at Pier Sixty for thirteen years – was fired for profanities two days before the Union election when no employee had ever before been sanctioned (much less fired) for profanity,” said the judges in their ruling.

So, we can’t fire employees for cursing out their bosses now?

The answer is, as it is with so many things in life, a qualified maybe.

How to handle it

Although right to work states do not have to worry about union organization with the frequency that other states do, it is incumbent upon employers to know the law and how to address employees’ rights to organization should talk of a union begin. Ensure that your human resources department is trained in the tenets of the National Labor Relations Act, with at least annual reviews on changes in case law that apply to your field, and make certain that your legal counsel gives timely advice should talk of a union begin (or gives you a referral to labor counsel if it’s outside of their field).
Secondly, if you have a policy on appropriate workplace conduct, follow it.

A rule seldom or only selectively enforced is a nightmare waiting to happen at termination time.

Finally, if your workplace is profanity tolerant, you’ll have a harder time training your employees where the magical line is between okay and fired, so consider making your workplace standards of conduct consistent with professionalism.

Firing well

As with any termination, it should never be a surprise to the employee when it happens, whether it’s for lackluster performance over time or the one very big bad thing that they did. But you’ve got to be sure that you’ve protected yourself by ensuring that you’re really firing the employee for what you say you are, rather than using it as a pretense for other things altogether.

#FiringWithGrace

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Business News

Class action suit hits vape company, Juul for illegally marketing to teens

(BUSINESS NEWS) Juul is a tiny vape stick that is popular among teens, a population the company is allegedly marketing directly to, grooming a new generation of addicts.

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This week, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Juul for violating federal laws by marketing to American children.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and ten of his Democratic colleagues have written a letter to the CEO of Juul Labs, lambasting the e-cigarette company for prioritizing profits over public health. The biggest concern among the complaints that both the legislators and parents across country have against the vaping-tobacco giant is that Juul purposefully advertises their products for teenagers.

Juul denies such intent, claiming that their product (which has taken over two-thirds of the e-tobacco market according to some sources) is primarily to help traditional adult tobacco consumers quit smoking cigarettes. They’ve even released an ad recently that tried to emphasize this image.

However much they try to pivot to this e-cigarette as a self-care market, their own history is against them. According to the research of Robert Jackler, as profiled on the Smithsonian, the imagery that Juul uses in its advertisements is a throwback to the unregulated day of big tobacco in how it overtly entices youth. This is a part of a growing public health crisis.

Juul first became famous for looking like a USB drive, and became used widely by school children who could trick teachers into thinking they were carrying a harmless device, not a nicotine machine.

One of Jackler’s insights is that today’s teenagers were never as likely to begin smoking traditional cigarettes as people from the late 80s and 90s, so they were an untapped market. The New York Times, reporting on the increasing public pressure the FDA faces to regulate the e-tobacco industry, even went so far as to ask, “Did Juul lure teenagers and get customers for life?”

Juul’s reach to the younger generation was also confirmed by a team of researchers from Stanford University. By analyzing social media posts from Juul’s launch in 2015 to last fall, the Stanford team concluded that where Juul’s real innovation in the smoking and e-cigarette industry was not its product, but the way that it mobilized social media to hook young consumers.

According to an interview with Stanford researchers, “Juul hired social media influencers — people with large followings on Instagram — to promote its products. It created hashtags — #juul, #juulvapor, #switchtojuul, #vaporized — that the influencers blasted out to their followings, often featuring images of young people Juuling, or doing tricks or jokes with their device.”

The company shut down its social media accounts last year, but the damage was done. The hashtags are still updated daily.

This sort of bait-and-switch advertising extends beyond Juul’s young American audience and their marketing efforts.

Take for example, an Indian company that recruited Pierce Brosnan for what he believed was a commercial for a breath freshener line. Instead, it was a type of tobacco product called pan bahar (it is similar to chewing tobacco). The star said that he wasn’t aware of the nature of the product, that the company didn’t disclose its harmful effects, saying that he wouldn’t have chosen to endorse it otherwise, as he has lost family members to cancer.

Not wanting to endorse tobacco product, of course, is a commendable stance for Brosnan. But where are the social media influencers that continue to take money from Juul to target teens? Where is their rejection? They could very easily take a cue from Brosnan and say they were unaware, but instead, continue to force feed hashtags down unsuspecting childrens’ figurative throats.

Juul can call themselves an alternative to smoking all they want, but if even our politicians can see through the B.S., Juul has a real problem.

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Business News

High School ‘Signing Day’ for seniors starting careers, not sports or college

(BUSINESS NEWS) Our culture has long glorified athletic accomplishments, but as technical trades flourish in America, celebrating that career path is a new move – one we applaud!

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The scene is familiar: excited students at a table overlooking proud parents and teachers with letters of intent before them. “Signing Day” has become a rite of passage for high school seniors intending to continue a sport in college.

However, Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia are celebrating students beginning careers immediately after graduation.

Instead of joining a college football or basketball team, these students are acknowledged for entering the workforce, and for seeking success and financial stability as opposed to going into massive debt by enrolling in college.

College has become a norm in society in spite of the financial risks, and job placement is no guarantee for graduates. The option is not for everyone, and we should be doing more to recognize those who are pursuing technical skills. The objective of education, at any level, is to prepare students for a successful career.

By definition, these seniors from Henrico County have taken the first step towards that goal.

At the signing ceremony, the students met with their future employers to sign letters stipulating what they would do throughout their employment, and outlining the training and benefits. It is a big affair, and in an era where promposals (ugh) are a thing, why not glorify and enthusiastically praise in public an alternative Signing Day?

Students wore hats and shirts representing their future place of employment, and it is worth noting that this is a moment to celebrate adulthood, and making strides towards independence.

Technical skills are in demand, and it’s about time we lift up tradesmen and tradeswomen across the country. Their contributions help make our communities stronger.

Students should feel encouraged to pursue paths towards success which best suits their individual goals. And there is nothing wrong with celebrating them as a community, and hopefully someday, as a society.

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Business News

How the Lean concept can have the biggest impact on your bottom line

(BUSINESS) Using the Lean business concept and asking the non-sexy question of “What’s dumb around here?” your business will outpace your competitors in no time.

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Entrepreneurs love solving problems. That’s what they’re good at doing. In fact, the more complex, difficult and messy the problem, the more the entrepreneur will enjoy the challenge. Entrepreneurs are especially good at solving problems that nobody knew were there. Think about Steve Jobs: He knew that we needed a pocket MP3 player before we even knew what it was.

While entrepreneurs are coming up with the next “big” thing, we need the non-entrepreneurs in our organizations focused on solving the small problems in our company with the same enthusiasm. Imagine if every one of your team members were consistently looking for opportunities to improve your systems, processes and service delivery. Those subtle changes made in the non-sexy parts of the business usually have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

This is a business concept called Lean, in which a company changes their processes to create the most benefit to the customer using the least amount of resources possible. Lean is commonly used in the manufacturing industry, but its principles can be used in any business to change the way of thinking and doing things.

I recently witnessed a great example of how Lean principles were used to improve one of my clients, LuminUltra – a leading provider of microbiological testing hardware, software and services. The company serves industries that need to know quickly and accurately what’s living in their water. At a recent quarterly planning session at the LuminUltra offices in Fredericton, Canada, COO Charlie Younger shared a powerful story about the company’s manufacturing facility and challenging the status quo.

During the expansion of the company’s manufacturing facility, one of the team members was lamenting to Charlie about how much time it took to complete a lengthy step of the manufacturing process – one specific quality check that was very time-consuming. He remarked that in the history of the company they never had a single machine fail the test. Charlie’s first thought was, do they even need to perform this specific test again?

After more discussion with colleagues, the team realized that the other quality checks performed earlier in the manufacturing process would always identify a defective unit. With this knowledge, the manufacturing team asked for permission to perform minimal testing to still provide assurance with less work. When presented with the information, the company leadership agreed that it was a great idea and would save time and money as well as improve the employee experience. But the bigger question was: Why hadn’t anyone ever questioned this lengthy step of the manufacturing process before?

Charlie, having run Lean programs in the past, has seen this issue before: People continue to do what they’ve always done even if they think there is a better way. He thought this would be a great opportunity to use a fun, simple but elegant technique to capture other status quo breakers – in other words, he decided to use the same principles for changing the company’s production process to make other company decisions.

With that, he posted a whiteboard in the manufacturing room with the title “What’s Dumb Around Here?” and encouraged team members to capture possible “dumb things” to add to it. These topics are discussed and vetted during their Lean process meetings to determine if they can be improved.

When I discussed the new process with Charlie, he noted, “First, you have to create an environment where people are willing to question the status quo. We have always been highly focused on quality and accuracy, so the team thought it was outrageous to openly question a quality check we had been performing for years.”

He continued, “You have to help your management team be open to receiving ideas that might seem crazy and not overreact to the suggestions. Instead, simply ask them to explain their logic. More often than not, the front line knows a better way to do things but does not know how to navigate the change. The beauty of using Lean techniques is that you now have an easy navigation path to discuss, approve and roll out changes. Suddenly, you have an energized front line solving problems with minimal involvement from management – how great is that?”

While LuminUltra continues to grow their product line and expand into new markets, it expects that its implementation of Lean principles will help it make subtle but important modifications to processes that will positively affect its bottom line. The CEO, Pat Whalen, remarked, “If we can produce our products faster and more cost effectively and get them into the hands of our customers faster, we can have an even bigger impact on the water sector with our microbiological monitoring products. I need all of our team members thinking how we can improve every single day. The water sector needs us.”

Every visionary, big-thinking entrepreneur needs a team that challenges the status quo. How are you encouraging your team members to identify, “What’s Dumb Around Here?”

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