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NLRB judge finds Jimmy Johns franchisee in Minnesota illegally fired employees for protected activity

Administrative Law Judge Arthur Amchan has found that a franchisee of the Jimmy Johns sandwich chain unlawfully discharged six employees after they staged a public campaign complaining of the company’s employee sick leave policy.

In his April 20 decision, Judge Amchan also found that Miklin Enterprises, Inc., a franchisee that operates 10 sandwich shops in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, unlawfully issued written warnings to three employees who took part in the campaign. His decision orders the employer to offer reinstatement to those discharged and rescind the written warnings, and to post notices at all of its shops.

Charges were filed by the Industrial Workers of the World on behalf of the workers, who have also been involved in a campaign to unionize the shops. The NLRB Regional Office in Minneapolis conducted an election in October, 2010, and the union lost by two votes. However, after objections were filed by the union alleging the company engaged in unfair labor practices during the election, the employer and union entered into a settlement in which a rerun election could be held within a year and a half.

In March, 2011, employees asked Milkin Enterprises to provide paid sick leave and to change a policy that requires the employees to find replacements when they are ill and unable to work. After the employer declined, employees posted notices near the 10 shops warning customers that their sandwiches could be made by ill employees. Many or all of these notices were immediately removed by the franchisee. Two days later, six employees involved in the postings were fired and three others received written warnings.

In his decision, Judge Amchan found that the employees’ activity was protected because it was part of an ongoing labor dispute, and that the language and images used did not cause the employees to lose their protection. In addition to ordering the employer to offer reinstatement, the judge also ordered that the employees receive full backpay for any loss of earnings and other benefits.

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