Monday, December 16, 2013

Crowdsourcing Illustrative Examples of "At-Will Employment"

FiredOver the last several years I frequently have found myself explaining at-will employment to law faculty/students in foreign countries who are incredulous at how little protection American law provides to employees.  Now, I'm writing an article for a non-American audience, and I want to make the point that under the at-will rule, employees legally can be fired for bizarre or idiosyncratic reasons. If you have illustrative examples of cases that help illustrate this, please leave a comment. I'd love to collect some good examples to help illustrate the point.

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Man fired for wearing Packers tie in Chicago. Had to explain to multiple people that this is not unlwaful. Many people were (and still are) incredulous, feeling that something about this is against the law. Wrong. http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Chicago-man-wears-Packers-tie-to-work-is-prompt?urn=nfl-311976

Posted by: Go Pack | Dec 16, 2013 5:47:00 PM

I teach the Bammert (Wisc. 2002) case in my Employment Law class to emphasize the limits of the at-will rule. It's the one where the woman is fired for being married to the police officer who arrested the boss's wife for drunk driving. The woman unsuccessfully attempted to make a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. I have always found, and my students usually agree, this to be a pretty egregious case.

Posted by: Stacy | Dec 17, 2013 5:41:32 AM

You're looking for reported cases, which this is not, but I once saw a worker at an employment law clinic who'd been fired because in high school (30+ years ago) he'd been picked for quarterback over the new boss.

Posted by: Dave | Dec 17, 2013 6:58:03 AM

The Packers tie one is a favorite. Some others [the first of which is my favorite, though not a problem I have] . . .

(1) Being for fired because you are too attractive (see Nelson v. James H. Knight DDS, P.C., 834 N.W.2d 64 (Iowa 2013)).

(2) Being fired for drinking the wrong beer [employee of Miller distributor in WI fired for being seen, off the job, drinking a Bud Light) [see http://www.foxnews.com/story/2005/02/14/beer-choice-costs-man-job/]

(3) Being fired for drinking the wrong soda [Coke employee fired for drinking a Pepsi – but it was on the job, while in his Coke uniform . . . but Coke claimed that amounted to “slander” of Coke] [see http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Northeast/06/13/coke.pepsi.firing/]

(4) Being fired for venting about work on your private Facebook account. For example, in Charlotte in 2010, Brixx Pizza fired a waitress for posting the following on her personal, private Facebook account on her off time: “Thanks for eating at Brixx you cheap piece of shit camper." [This was after a couple came in for lunch, stayed for three hours (thus requiring the waitress to work an hour past her quitting time), and then leaving her a $5 tip] (see http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/05/17/1440447/facebook-post-costs-waitress-her.html#storylink=cpy)

Posted by: Brian Clarke | Dec 17, 2013 7:34:09 AM

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/24/us-usa-kidney-donor-idUSBRE83N1G020120424. A woman was fired after complications arose when she donated a kidney, which she donated to help move her boss up in priority on the donation list. This one hasn't gone to trial yet, I don't think, and it's possible that there is a viable ADA claim here, but it's pretty terrible sounding.

Posted by: Marcia | Dec 17, 2013 8:40:11 AM

Thanks all -- these are great!

Posted by: Rick Bales | Dec 17, 2013 1:04:23 PM

Really interesting, thanks​!​

I think that you would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across explaining crowds and citizen science.​ ​In particular I feel you may find these two emerging pieces of research very relevant:

- The Theory of Crowd Capital
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2193115

- The Contours of Crowd Capability
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2324637

Powerful stuff, no?

Posted by: JMI | Dec 17, 2013 10:15:28 PM

It was not a reported case, I think, but the El Monte, California life guards were fired for making a music video spoof of "Gangham Style." They were, of course, rehired after public outcry.

Posted by: Julie Martin-Korb | Dec 25, 2013 4:39:06 AM

Here is a new one Rick . . . not a case, obviously, but timely: Teenager Fired for Wearing a Broncos Jersey in Seattle . . . http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/10332816/super-bowl-teen-fired-wearing-denver-broncos-jersey-work

Posted by: BC | Jan 22, 2014 12:00:15 PM

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