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Workers Fired After Skipping to Protest

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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More than 100 protestors in the United States lost their jobs last month after taking part in the “Day Without Immigrants” demonstration, including at least 70 employees in the construction industry.

There is some speculation, not only about whether employees knew what the ramifications would be if they missed work, but also if employers legally had to provide that information in the first place.

Masonry Workers

Jim Serowski, founder of JVS Masonry in Commerce City, Colorado, fired a foreman and 30 bricklayers after he says he warned his employees that they would lose their jobs if they skipped work in protest.

He told CNN that his message to them was clear: "If you're going to stand up for what you believe in, you have to be willing to pay the price."

Ted Eytan, CC-BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

About 21 employees were confirmed fired from Encore Boat Builders in Lexington, South Carolina. Owner Steve Deese said that he gave his employees an opportunity to provide a doctor’s note, but that none of them did.

Serowski maintained that he had went above and beyond for his workers, knowing that they were immigrants and doing his best to support them financially even when business was slow.

Coatings Employees

Robert Peal, an attorney for Bradley Coatings Inc., based in Nashville, said that 18 employees were terminated and that a supervisor had spoken to employees individually about the consequences of protesting.

However, an anonymous employee told KTNV, “They didn’t give us an opportunity and just told us we were fired,” adding that the group of workers had agreed on making up the day the following Sunday.

Ted Eytan, CC-BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tennessee, for instance, is an “employment-at-will” state, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development spokesperson Chris Cannon said. “…which basically means an employer can end your employment at any time without reason or cause.”

According to KTNV, seven other employees quit after they learned their colleagues had been terminated.

Builders

About 21 employees were confirmed fired from Encore Boat Builders in Lexington, South Carolina. Owner Steve Deese said that he gave his employees an opportunity to provide a doctor’s note, but that none of them did.

"We run an assembly line, and when 21 people call out, that seriously affects our operation,” Deese said.

Reportedly, four construction workers were also fired from the Orange and Blue company in Miami. Another 17 quit in protest.

Laws Favor Owners

All of the owners said that they’ve received both backlash and support for their decisions, and, at least in two of these states, the law backs them up, too.

Tennessee, for instance, is an “employment-at-will” state, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development spokesperson Chris Cannon said.“[…] which basically means an employer can end your employment at any time without reason or cause.”

Melissa Burnette, an attorney for Encore, said that South Carolina is also a right-to-work state.

"Some employers are more supportive and would not have terminated the employees but some employers have the right to do that" she said.

All employers also maintain that the firings had nothing to do with why the employees missed work.

   

Tagged categories: Business management; Business matters; Coatings; Construction; Masonry; Politics

Comment from Robert Tinker, (3/14/2017, 8:38 AM)

The owners are pricks!


Comment from M. Halliwell, (3/14/2017, 10:43 AM)

Robert, some would say the employees were too (two way street here). It's one thing to make arrangements for the time off...some employers are supportive and would give the time off (assuming normal operations could be maintained)...but it's quite another thing to just not show up for your shift (or to have a majority of a shift not show up) without notice.


Comment from John McCormac, (3/15/2017, 10:46 AM)

Decisions have consequences, so if you don't want the set of consequences that come with taking an unapproved day off, don't take the day off. To claim that "the owners are pricks" displays an extreme lack of business sense as well as ignorance of the law. It's very shortsighted to protest against breaking the law at risk of your job.


Comment from Larry Garcia, (3/15/2017, 2:21 PM)

If 21 people calling out for a day seriously affects an operation, I would think that having to hire 21 people and train them to do the work would have an even more serious effect. It is a very interesting business decision.


Comment from Jesse Melton, (3/16/2017, 8:02 AM)

That part where the workers "planned to make up the day on Sunday" sounds bad. Workers don't get to make those decisions themselves. They have to get it approved by their employer.

The employees are also leaving out the fact that most cities in the South prohibit construction work on Sunday's, even by private homeowners (outside work only for homeowners). I lived in Tennessee for a very long time and the prohibition is strict. You can get around it for certain jobs, but you have to get permission and a permit. It's that way where I'm living now as well. On a clear day I can see the Washington Monument in DC but I can't do work on the exterior of my house on Sunday's and commercial vehicles are frowned on even if they're doing work indoors.

It's not as cut and dried as they'd have you think.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (3/16/2017, 11:19 AM)

Larry, I agree it is disruptive, but it is likely a case of short term pain for long term gain. Whether the same folks get hired back next week or new folks are brought in, my guess is they won't have a 21 day mass "hard hat flu" come around again anytime soon.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (3/16/2017, 11:20 AM)

D'oh...21 person x 1 day mass "hard hat flu"...I hate it when things get messed in a post...you know what I mean :)


Comment from George O'Hanlon, (12/28/2017, 3:17 AM)

Just as employees may be free to walk off a job, employers (in most states) are free to terminate their employment. Of course, as in all these cases, there are facts we are not aware and that must be taken into consideration before judging employers and employees. Judging situations from headlines is fraught with problems.


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