Will Jimmy John's Have To Start Charging For Smells Now?

Mar 28, 2016

In another example of the reach of the National Labor Relations Board's decisions into non-union environments, the 8th Circuit Court of appeals upheld an NLRB decision to award back pay to fired (non-union) employees.

Jimmy John's, a chain known for it's "free smells" signs, fast delivery, and made to order sandwiches is a national chain. Six employees of a Jimmy John's franchisor in Minnesota complained publicly about the fact that they were not eligible for sick time. The employees did this by posting pictures around the city that contained two Jimmy John's subs, one made by a sick worker and one made by a healthy worker and then asking, "Can't tell the difference?" "That's too bad because Jimmy Johns workers don't get sick days." In response, the company fired the employees. (Three other employees were reprimanded for the incidents but not fired.) The NLRB issued a ruling ordering that the employees be awarded back pay for their terminations, which the 8th Circuit upheld last Friday.

The 8th Circuit decision highlights the sensitive nature of an employee's right to complain about working conditions. Many U.S. employees have the right to engage in concerted protected activity, even in a non-union environment. What this means is that as counter-intuitive as it may sound, an employee may just have the right to complain publicly and bitterly about his or her working conditions and still have job protections depending on the circumstances of that complaint.

Hopefully this decision does not affect the bottom line of Minnesota customers enough to require that the price on smells be increased.

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