Some employers terminate their employees pretty often.
Sometimes there are even rumors about who will get fired next. But you know
what's probably not a good idea for employers? Holding a contest in which
employees place $10 bets on who will get fired next! Bad idea, great Case of
In Shelsky v.
QC Mart, the employee voluntarily quit and was trying to collect
unemployment compensation benefits. The Admin Law Judge (ALJ) hearing the case,
described the "contest," detailed in a memo to the employees:
NEW CONTEST - GUESS THE NEXT CASHIER WHO WILL BE FIRED!!!
The game was listed as follows: "To win our game, write on a piece of paper the
name of the next cashier you believe will be fired. Write their name (the
person who will be fired), today's date, today's time, and your name. Seal it
in an envelope and give it to the manager to put in my envelope. Here's how the
game will work. We are doubling our secret shopper efforts, and your store will
be visited during the day AND at night several times a week. Secret shoppers
will be looking for cashiers wearing a hat, talking on a cell phone, not
wearing a QC Mart shirt, having someone hanging around/behind the counter,
and/or no car personal car (sic) parked by the pumps after 7:00 pm, among other
things. If the name in your envelope has the right answer, you will win $10.00
CASH. Only one winner per firing unless there are multiple right answers with
the exact same name, date, and time. Once we fire the person, we will open all
the envelopes, award the prize, and start the contest again. AND NO FAIR
PICKING MIKE MILLER FROM ROCKINGHAM. HE WAS FIRED AT AROUND 11:30 AM TODAY FOR
WEARING A HAD (sic) AND TALKING ON HIS CELL PHONE. GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!
Ordinarily, you can't collect Unemployment Compensation
when you quit - unless there's an intolerable work environment. The ALJ felt
the employee was justified in quitting under the circumstances:
The administrative law judge finds the employer's
"contest" to be egregious and deplorable. The employer's actions have
clearly created a hostile work environment by suggesting its employees turn on
each other for a minimal monetary prize. The claimant has established this was
an intolerable and detrimental work environment.
And so the employee got her unemployment compensation.
You may have picked up on the "hostile work environment" language and
thought, "Hey! I bet she has a great lawsuit!" Well, think again.
Hostile work environment claims are ordinarily premised on discrimination
statutes and must target a protected class (like race, sex, religion, etc.).
Not to mention that such claims must involve "severe or pervasive"
conduct - I have doubts whether this would cut it. And, although the contest is
in poor (Ok, REALLY poor) taste, it appears clearly intended to notify
employees of specific (and reasonable) workplace rules, and the employer's efforts
to enforce those rules. I think a lawsuit would be tough going....
HT: My McQuaide Blasko colleague, Jaime
Bumbarger, who emailed me this
See also: Jon Hyman - Betting
on a Lawsuit.
For additional Employment Law updates, follow
this link to Phillip Miles' blog, Lawffice
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