Can you get fired for ripping French soccer players as poor tippers? Oui, but of course.

You may get your passport revoked if you hate on the free kick prowess of French soccer star, Dimitri Payet. Nasty!

But, if you work in a tipped position and you question the generosity of French soccer players when leaving gratuities, then, hasta luego. Not even the National Labor Relations Board can save you.  Peep this ALJ decision in Alstate Maintenance, LLC and Trevor Greenidge.  While waiting for the arrival of a van carrying a French soccer team, Mr. Greenidge, a skycap, said to some other skycaps; “We did a similar job a year prior and we didn’t receive a tip for it.” When the van arrived, the skycaps bailed and refused to assist the soccer team. So, Alstate brought in a group of baggage handlers to do the work and, only after the baggage handlers started bringing in the luggage, did Mr. Greenidge and the other the skycaps begin to assist the customer. All four skycaps were fired as a result of the incident.

Each skycap subsequently filed a union grievance. Three were offered jobs at Alstate’s sister company; Mr. Greenidge was not. So, he alleged an unfair labor practice, claiming that Alstate had interfered with his Section 7 right to discuss his working conditions with other co-workers.

Protected activity or mere griping? [Spoiler, the latter]

Section 7 and 8(a) of the National Labor Relations Act make it unlawful for an employer — even most non-union employers — to do practically anything to chill the rights of employees to discuss their working conditions with one another. Although recent decisions from the National Labor Relations Board may have employers thinking otherwise, the Act is not free license for employees to say whatever they want, whenever they want. For example, when an employee makes a stray remark about work — like a bartender telling his sister on Facebook that he wished for a customer to choke on glass — that’s not protected. Therefore, you can discipline that employee.

That’s basically the gist of the ALJ’s opinion, where he concluded that the employer did not wrong here. That’s right! Employer wins a ULP:

The entire theory of the General Counsel’s case is that on July 17, 2013, Greenidge engaged in concerted activity when, while waiting for the arrival of the van carrying a French soccer team, he said to the other skycaps; “We did a similar job a year prior and we didn’t receive a tip for it.” This single statement by Greenidge did not call for or request the other skycaps to engage in any type of concerted action or to otherwise make any kind of concerted complaint to their employer about their wages. In my opinion, this was simply an offhand gripe about his belief that French soccer players were poor tippers.

So, Vive la France! We go out this week on a high note. Happy Canada to my friends up north, even the Montreal Canadiens fans. (Memba this?) Love you too, Leafs fans. (This too.). And, for my fellow Americans, enjoy the Fourth of July holiday.

I’ll see you next week.

  • Heavy Metal Lawyer

    One suggestion. Define “skycap” at the beginning of the post. I was very confused and had to look it up.