So, what’s the big deal? That doesn’t get you fired. At least that’s what the NLRB says. As long as you say it on Facebook during a union campaign. And you’re a union supporter. And you add “Vote YES for the union.” Pier Sixty, LLC, 362 NLRB No. 59 (March 31, 2015).
Hernan Perez worked for Pier Sixty, a catering company in New York City. Some employees wanted a union, “in part because of concerns that management repeatedly treated them disrespectfully and in an undignified manner.” Mr. Perez supported this effort. At an event at the Lighthouse restaurant (a venue on Chelsea Pier), Mr. Perez was chastised by a supervisor, Bob McSweeney, about his level of effort at work. It also happened to be two days before the union election.
Mr. Perez, exemplifying the sort of dignified and eruidite command of language to which we all aspire, posted the following on Facebook during a bathroom break while still at work:
“Bob is such a NASTY MOTHER FUCKER don’t know how to talk to people!!!!!! Fuck his mother and his entire fucking family!!!! What a LOSER!!!! Vote YES for the UNION!!!!!!!”
Aside from an overuse of exclamation points, what could an employer see wrong with this, right? Well, apparently, Mr. Perez’s employer did not find it particularly acceptable. Mr. Perez was fired.
Bad decision. In a 2-1 decision, the NLRB said that “[W]hile distasteful, the Respondent tolerated the widespread use of profanity in the workplace, including the words ‘fuck’ and ‘motherfucker.’ Considered in this setting, Perez’ use of those words in his Facebook post would not cause him to lose the protection of the Act.” Really. That’s what the Board decided.
Now, let us be clear. The use of such words in many workplaces does, in fact, occur regularly. And, very few workplaces meet the standard required of a Victorian Salon. Nevertheless, this was not a slip of the tongue over a dropped wine glass. Our Mr. Perez called out not only his boss, but recommended some very unnecessary and explicit behavior toward his boss’s mother and entire family. In this day and age, what if a reader of Mr. Perez’s post thought that he was literally serious and actually advocating such acts? Stranger things have happened.
Yet, the NLRB says “fuggetaboutit.” It was protected because Perez added support for the union at the end of the post.
While we are at it, consider this one: on the same day it issued Pier Sixty, the NLRB also released Mezonos Maven Bakery, Inc., 362 N.L.R.B. No. 41 (March 27, 2015), holding that an employer who knowingly employs undocumented workers and then fires them in violation of the NLRA can be ordered to offer reinstatement to those former employees who document their authorization for employment under IRCA. At least I understand that reasoning.