NLRB Ok’s Firing of Employee at Portland Manufacturer of Raw Gluten-Free Artisan Crackers

No, it is not an episode of Portlandia.  It is a case decided by the NLRB.  In the case, the Portland Industrial Workers of the World General Membership Branch (aka the Wobblies) alleged that the employer, Livin’ Spoonful, Inc., terminated one of its employees (a member of the union) because he engaged in concerted activities. 

The employer, a business owned by a husband and wife which had 2-4 employees and was operated out of a small kitchen on the couple’s property, maintained a liberal and open working environment.  During work hours, the owners and employees listened to NPR, talked about politics and philosophy, discussed Karl Marx’ views on capitalism and worker exploitation, and the Wobblies’ Constitution –  which proposes that  workers should do away with capitalism.  The employer was aware that two of its employees were union members and active in the Occupy Portland movement.  The terminated employee alleged that he was terminated because he submitted a letter asking the employer to change its business model, employee compensation and other operations.  In contrast, the employer asserted that the termination was performance based and due to the interpersonal strain created as a result of the employee’s expressed belief that he was being exploited by the employer.

The NLRB found there was no evidence of animus towards the employee’s protected activities in the employer’s decision to terminate.  In fact, the NLRB pointed out that it was “eminently reasonable” for the owner of a small family based business trying to create a harmonious work environment  to terminate an employee who was causing interpersonal strain and unwilling to work collaboratively to address that strain.  The rest of the NLRB decision can be found here http://www.nlrb.gov/case/19-CA-084278.  Reading it is almost as entertaining as an episode of Portlandia.

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