The town of Stratford, Connecticut entered an employment agreement with its director of human resources, stating that his employment would be entirely at-will and further providing:
Based upon the annual performance evaluation, and at the [m]ayor’s sole discretion and recommendation, the base salary may be increased on July 1 of each fiscal year, subject to the approval of the [council], which by Charter fixes the salaries of all mayoral appointees.
Subsequently, the town council voted to reduce the manager’s salary, and the dispute went to litigation. Both a trial court and a Connecticut appeals court agreed with the manager’s argument that even though the document prescribed an at-will relationship, by specifying that the base salary “may be increased” it was implicitly promising that it would never be decreased. [Daniel Schwartz; Adams on Contract Drafting]
Annals of European employment law: “The Irish arm of supermarket giant Tesco has been ordered to pay a convicted drug dealer €11,500 for unfair dismissal.” The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) found that the market should have considered sanctions less severe than dismissal given that the employee had cooperated with its process and that a manager admitted there was no evidence of public awareness of the employee’s legal troubles, which eventuated in a guilty plea and a suspended jail sentence. [Evening Herald (Ireland)]
“Francesco Schettino, former captain of the Costa Concordia, has sued, claiming wrongful termination from his job after the accident, according to his lawyer.” [L.A. Times] “As you may recall, there were a few questions about whether Schettino’s conduct was entirely up to snuff on the night of the accident. First, there was the whole running-into-a-rock problem, of course, but he was also criticized for then fleeing the ship before all the passengers were evacuated.” [Lowering the Bar]
According to the Sun-Sentinel, managers at the Deerfield Beach, Fla. real estate law firm of Elizabeth Wellborn fired 14 employees on Friday for wearing orange clothing. According to the report, an executive had been informed that the workers were wearing orange as a protest, but several employees told the newspaper that they knew of no protest and that they customarily wore orange on paydays so that they would appear as a group at a happy hour after work.
If the story checks out as reported — the law firm was recorded as having declined comment — expect to hear rumblings about how it refutes the American legal principle of “employment at will,” though it doesn’t actually refute that principle any more than the tale of a wastrel heir refutes the principle of inheritance.
Spanish law makes it difficult and expensive to dismiss conventionally employed workers, but the market has managed to route around that to some extent [J. Servulo Gonzalez, El Pais via Tyler Cowen]:
Temporary contracts were introduced in a labor reform approved in 1984 by the Socialist government of Felipe González, and they have remained in favor ever since – even more so during times of crisis, such as those currently being seen in Spain, where 93 out of every 100 contracts signed of late have been temporary.
Although the Spanish government has attempted to re-regulate temporary employment, as by forbidding renewal of temporary contracts — a step that obviously works to the disadvantage of some of the workers affected — it has also been forced to trim back some of the elaborate tenure protections for private-sector workers, who may now walk away with a maximum of two years’ salary as severance, down from three and a half years’.
My new post at Cato at Liberty is on Italian labor law professors Pietro Ichino and Carlo Dell’Aringa, who live under police protection because of their support for liberalization of the job market; two other professors, Massimo D’Antona and Mario Biagi, have been killed by Red Brigades gunmen. More: Coyote.
Why does Europe generate so few star high-tech firms? Bad labor law is one reason [Brian Palmer, Slate]
Hey, that might work here too! It’s the subject of my new Cato Institute post, which also mentions today’s news of a big jump (to record levels) in federal employment discrimination cases, fueled by the 2008 ADA Amendments Act.
I’ve got some thoughts at Cato at Liberty on the overreaching way California’s Proposition 19 tried to curtail employers’ liberty in employment decisions related to pot smoking — which might have contributed to the measure’s defeat at the polls on Tuesday. Earlier here. Jacob Sullum points out that much of employers’ tendency to treat off-job marijuana use more harshly than off-job alcohol use is itself stimulated by government mandates and exhortation, prominently including drug testing programs (& welcome Instapundit readers). More: Nancy Berner, California Labor & Employment Law Blog (“Merely smelling marijuana on a worker’s clothes after lunch would not be sufficient to justify a write-up” had the measure passed.)
Legal secretary Nancy Topolski acknowledges that she couldn’t handle the workload assigned to her by law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, and that she suffered panic attacks as a result that prevented her from doing the work. But, she says, this just means that the law firm violated discrimination laws when it fired her. (Karen Sloan, National Law Journal, Mar. 24).
“The nation’s industrial umpire has ruled that a long-term employee who was legitimately sacked for repeated safety breaches must be reinstated and paid compensation because of his poor education and poor job prospects.” [The Australian]
“The Bush administration, as expected, announced new protections on Thursday for health care providers who oppose abortion and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.” (NYT via GruntDoc). I briefly criticized this bad idea in a post last week at Secular Right, and there are hopes that the incoming Obama administration will rescind it. P.S. Longer post now up over there.
If you’re not keeping up with our sister site, you’re missing out on stories about how expert evidence standards help plaintiffs too (and more); animal rights more voguish at many law schools than those dull old humans; Ohio Supreme Court commended; implications of recent plunge in carpal tunnel cases; 93% enrollment in Vioxx settlement; attorney faces criminal charges after his clients quit their nursing jobs; extensive coverage of Gov. Spitzer’s downfall; more trouble for Florida lawyer accused of bribing defendant’s adjuster to obtain settlement target numbers; ballot measure would abolish employment at will in Colorado; judicial seminars by the securities class action bar; and much more.