>In a 2-1 decision, the NLRB has ruled that wholesale food and retail sales company – Sysco Food Services of Tennessee – was wrong in dismissing two employees after an incident of violence at work, even if they violated a “zero tolerance” policy.
>Ben Kelley and Greg Jaster, good friends and known union supporters, had a minor incident at work after a collision of pallet jacks. Although the incident involved only finger pointing and light contact, the men were separated by a supervisor. According to the NLRB, the men were friendly again within a few hours. However, two weeks later, they were notified that their employment had been terminated because of the incident.
>During the time of their altercation, union activity at the company had been contentious, according to the NLRB, with multiple union elections taking place because of complaints. Both Kelley and Jaster were vocal and active members of the union, and this was known to their employer.
>The NLRB ruled that this action was wrong for numerous reason, and claimed that Kelley and Jaster were fired not for their altercation but because of their union activities. The NLRB claimed that the company had a history of discharging union members without cause. It ruled that the altercation did not constitute “hostile physical contact”, as the company policy requires, and even if it did, other employees – who were not union members – were not terminated for more serious indiscretions of the no-violence rule.
>Because of this, the NLRB found that the company was “unlawfully motivated” in the termination of both employees.
>The company has been ordered to reimburse the two employees and others who were fired for similar reasons for damages.
The NLRB ruling is available here .
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