South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Worker Fired for Bad Attitude Not Protected by Union Status
Description Appeals court held that a worker who had a union leadership role received no protection from the NLRA for his union status after he was fired for calling his supervisor names. His insubordination and firing had nothing to do with union activity.
Topic Labor Law
Key Words Concerted Activity; Retaliation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The press employees at the Winston-Salem Journal newspaper are represented by a union. Mankins had worked for there for 16 years and also served as a union officer. He thought that his supervisor, Leonard, neglected his duties by socializing too much. At a group meeting headed by Leonard to discuss work performance, Mankin said that Leonard did not treat people equally and that he and the newspaper were racist. About an hour later, Mankin and Leonard had a discussion and Mankin repeated his racism claim and called Leonard assorted names. Mankin was fired for insubordination. The union filed a grievance, contending that Mankin was fired in retaliation for his union activity and that his comments were part of protected activity under the NLRA. The NLRB's administrative law judge recommended that the NLRB not side with Mankin and the union in this matter. The NLRB Board overturned the ALJ's decision. It held that Mankin suffered retaliation and ordered him rehired with back pay. The employer appealed.
Decision

Reversed. It is not an unfair labor practice to discharge an employee for exhibiting a defiant and insulting attitude towards his supervisor. The NLRA does not shield against the consequences of insubordinate behavior if the disciplinary act was not motivated by anti-union animus. Mankin's actions were not concerted activity protected by the NLRA. The employer did not fire him for his union activities.

Citation Media General Operations, Inc. v. NLRB, 394 F.3d 207 (4th Cir., 2005)

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