If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen—best practices from Top Chef

August 14, 2017 - by: Rachel E. Kelly 0 COMMENTS
Rachel E. Kelly

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” That’s essentially what a group of Teamsters told Top Chef host personality Padma Lakshmi back in June 2014 outside of Steel & Rye restaurant in Milton, Massachusetts. This “episode” is now at the center of a lawsuit brought by the federal government against four Boston-area Teamsters accused of threatening Top Chef production into providing them with positions already held by nonunion employees.  On Strike Sign

The incident occurred in June 2014, when Lakshmi arrived at the restaurant for the filming of a Top Chef episode. Her van was met with a group of Teamsters, one of whom allegedly approached Lakshmi’s vehicle, reached in the passenger side window where she was sitting, and said, “Lookee here, what a pretty face.” Naturally, Lakshmi understood this to be a threat—or at least this is the theory of the attorneys prosecuting the case.

The Teamsters on the other hand contend that the incident outside of the restaurant was for the purpose of a legitimate union objective, i.e., picketing to obtain jobs driving Top Chef’s trucks for their fellow out-of-work Teamsters. Prosecutors argue that the Teamsters were attempting to strong-arm the Bravo show’s crew into paying them for unneeded work, for which there is no legal protection. See United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396 (1973), (Holding that federal law does not protect union violence in furtherance of the union’s objectives).

So, what are some best practices for employers facing a labor picket?

1) First, an employer needs to know that strikes and picketing are protected conduct under the National Labor Relations Act, under certain circumstances. A union, however cannot strike or picket an employer to force it to stop doing business with another employer that is the primary target of a labor dispute. At work sites with more than one employer, such as a construction site, picketing is permitted only if the protest is clearly directed exclusively at the primary employer.

2) Picketing should be confined to public places surrounding the employer’s premises. As a general rule, there should be no picketing in private places or on the street.

3) While picketers can be enthusiastic in support of their picket, the chants should not include threats, slurs, or other forms of harassment based on race, nationality, or gender/sexual orientation.

4) Picketers should avoid confrontation and not make physical contact with anyone under any circumstances. This includes throwing items, brandishing weapons, following individuals to and from the picket site, and making threats.

5) Generally, employers subject to a picket cannot obtain a legal injunction to prohibit or stop a picket. Both state and federal law prohibit a court from intervening by issuing an injunction to prohibit a peaceful picketing protest. But employers should be mindful, as pickets are not without some constraint. In the event a picket results in the blockade of entrances, violence, and/or the destruction of property, courts may issue an injunction.

6) Protesters can picket only employers that are subject to the actual labor dispute. Therefore, it’s vitally important for employers to know whether they are considered the actual employer. For instance, contractors that subcontract the work are not considered employers of the trade being picketed by the union. As an example, if the project has a two-gate system and the carpentry union is picketing a particular project, the union may picket only at or near the gate that the carpentry subcontractor uses, i.e., the picketers cannot picket at the electricians’ gate. If a union fails to honor this two-gate system, the employer can raise the issue before the National Labor Relations Board.

7) Finally, employers cannot terminate employees for participating in a strike or picket, or their feet will be held to the fire!

Workin’ it in the library

July 25, 2013 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS
Jaclyn West

It’s summertime, and the reading is easy. (For many, that is. There are some who like to take advantage of long beach days with a tome they otherwise wouldn’t have time to read; to them, we say more power to you!) As a bookworm, I’m always looking for a good read to take with me, whether that’s to the beach or otherwise—although I do prefer the beach. And as a proud employment law geek, I love it when my pleasure reading gives a nod to my chosen profession. So if you, too, like your summer reading to dish out a generous portion of human resources (I can’t be the only one, now, can I?), here are some of my personal favorites.

Fiction
Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua FerrisThen We Came to the End was described to me as “Office Space in book form,” and I have to say, that description is apt. The book chronicles a group of employees in a Chicago advertising firm facing deep staffing cuts. It’s narrated in the first-person plural, which is an interesting, little-used perspective, and as a result, it honestly captures the group dynamics of many offices. This dark comedy manages to be simultaneously sad and funny . . . and anyone who has ever looked with an envious eye at a coworker’s office furniture will blush with recognition.

Baker Towers: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh—Employment isn’t the primary focus of Baker Towers, but in a novel sweeping decades of life in a Pennsylvania coal mining town after World War II, you know that labor strife will be part of the picture. When the miners go on strike, the entire town feels the effects—even those who don’t work below ground. Baker Towers is a sensitive, realistic portrayal of life in the Rust Belt, and those of us with a labor bent will find it fascinating.

Nonfiction
The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich—If you like your beach reading with a side of subversiveness, The Good Girls Revolt is for you. Lynn Povich was a staffer at Newsweek in the 1970s, when the journalism industry was male-dominated. Povich and her female colleagues filed an EEOC charge alleging “systematic discrimination” by the higher-ups at Newsweek, and this is their story. It’s light on legal arguments but heavy on atmosphere, and you’ll feel as if you were there, sitting with the Newsweek women in tension-filled meetings in apartments, planning their next move.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain—According to Quiet, at least one-third of people are introverts, which means there are almost certainly some in your workforce, if you’re not one yourself. Many introverts struggle to fit into an extrovert-dominated workforce, but Susan Cain has good advice on that score. As an introvert myself, I nodded in agreement with many of her tips and anecdotes—but this book isn’t just for introverts. Quiet should be required reading for managers who want to learn more about how their more introverted employees think and work best. Quiet was one of the most talked-about books of 2012, and for good reason. It’s well-researched and absolutely fascinating.

Enough about me—what about you? Are you reading anything employment-related this summer? Do share!

Editor’s note: Blogger Jaclyn West has not been compensated for her book recommendations.