By Dónall Breen - 30 July 2018
Every month, we take a look at the weird and wonderful employment law news from around the world, with a tongue in cheek assessment of what has kept our fellow workplace lawyers busy
Contrary to popular belief, labour lawyers are very much like other members of society with emotions and interests. That’s why there was a dark cloud in the office the day after England’s loss to Croatia, only to have emotions disrupted again when France went on to win the World Cup.
However, as diligent workers, we all showed up to work each of these days - unlike other business, where there was an estimated 36% increase in unexplained/sickness absences after England games. That said, I would be surprised if even 36% of France’s workforce bothered to go to work on Monday as half a million-people lined the streets of Paris to greet their team on return. Dealing with suspicious one off absences can be tricky and in the vast majority of cases due process will be required. We wouldn’t recommend going straight for the red card, even if there is clear evidence of a breach of your absence policy.
One employee who was not clearly not happy to be given her marching orders was a healthcare worker from Detroit. In the meeting which led to her dismissal she stabbed a member of HR team in the hand with a pen (thankfully, the news reports say there was only minor injuries sustained). The hobby graphologist took exception to the fact that she was being asked to pay for a broken work iPad. Although the employee was arrested she was later released on bail, meaning there is still no line drawn under this incident.
Desperately trying to draw a line in the sand is Theresa May who has lost three prominent members of her cabinet in the last few weeks. Fallout from various Brexit meetings has meant a major reshuffle and brave faces required all round. May’s troubles highlight any team’s need for succession planning and back up leadership in times of crisis, especially when the business they are looking after is the national economy.
Speaking of economies, the latest gig economy case has hit the headlines as freelance artists at the National Gallery are claiming to be workers for employment law purposes. Sketching out their arguments, the artists said that the ‘gig economy’ is not just in the private sector and certainly their case will add even more colour to an already vivid canvas. Their lawyers argue they have not been treated fairly regarding discrimination issues and unfair dismissal.
Certainly, the most unfair dismissal we came across this month was a poor man in New York who was terminated by a computer. In a move even SkyNet would have been proud of, a glitch on the HR system cancelled his security pass, sent an email to recruiters saying his contract was terminated, sent an email to security and maintenance to remove him and his possessions from the building and automatically disabled his accounts. Almost hilariously, even human intervention couldn’t undo such a scrubbing of his status and it took three weeks to facilitate his return to work – at which point he promptly quit after colleagues suspected him of being suspended. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords and ask for their mercy.
Far from being mercilessly fired is Alabama employee Walter Carr who, on the first day of his removals job, walked over 20 miles to get to work after his car broke down. In a heart-warming story, the customers on the day heard about his plight and told the management of the company what he had done. The owner of the business then promptly bought a brand-new car for the diligent newbie. There were tears all round.
We presume the tears were as a result of both parties realising the costly benefit in kind tax implications of this work-related gift. A nicely structured share incentive scheme would have been a more efficient transfer of remuneration. As I said at the start, us labour lawyers are no different than anyone else out there. From all of us here at GQ|Littler, we wish you all the best in this glorious weather.