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Circuit court upholds employer right to dismiss employees

A Minnesota company that owns 10 Jimmy John’s sandwich shop franchises in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area was recently found to be within its rights to dismiss six workers. The Jimmy John’s employees representing Industrial Workers of the World circulated posters to fellow employees as well as 100 local and national media outlets in 2011 that were critical of the company’s sick-leave policy.

The full 8th United States Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a three-judge panel that had affirmed a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling, which favored workers who were part of a drive to unionize the shops. The full appeals court deemed that the posters was “so disloyal” that they were not protected by federal labor law.

According to a local news report, the full circuit court reasoned that the disloyalty was based on an attack upon the quality of the company’s food instead of sticking to the issue of labor practices.

Posters critical of sick-leave policy

Timed to coincide with the flu season, the posters showed two identical photos of a Jimmy John’s sandwich with the caption: “Can’t tell the difference? That’s too bad because Jimmy John’s workers don’t get paid sick days. Shoot, we can’t even call in sick. We hope your immune system is ready because you’re about to take the sandwich test.” It went on to say that one sandwich was made by a sick worker and one was made by a healthy one.

The union protested what it viewed as the unfair practice of prohibiting employees from calling in sick unless they found their own replacement for the shift. They also accused the company of putting the health of its customers at risk.

Franchise law can be complicated

Owning a franchise can be both lucrative and rewarding, but employment policies are often complex and sometimes confusing. Working with an attorney can help you protect your business interests while avoiding unnecessary disputes with employees or partners.

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