Sunday, June 28, 2015
Racists Comments Can Be Protected Activity. What?
In a recent decision from the National Labor Relations Board Division of Judges, racist comments are protected so long as the comments are not imminent threats. On June 5, 2015, Administrative Law Judge, Randazzo, ruled that Cooper Tire & Rubber Company (hereinafter “Respondent”) violated the National Labor Relations Act by terminating an employee for making racist comments.
On January 7, 2012, the Respondent participated in a lockout of the employees. Among those employees was Anthony Runion, a Caucasian male. During the course of the lockout, the Respondent brought in replacement workers, which included several African Americans. As the replacement workers were entering the main gate, Runion began to make several racist comments about smelling “KFC fried chicken” and “watermelon.” On March 1, 2012, the Respondent discharged Runion alleging that Runion’s racist comments violated the Respondent’s harassment policy.
The ALJ concluded that although Runion’s remarks were racist, offensive, and clearly inappropriate, the Respondent violated the NLRA when it fired Runion for remarks that were used in the context of a strike. Further, any comments made by Runion while on the picket line are protected conduct so long as the comments do not constitute a threat.