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Mass firing of unionized drivers by UPS produces pain, pushback

One of our key themes in this blog is that there are certain legal protections against wrongful termination.

To be sure, many jobs are considered “at will” employment. But as we pointed out in March 28 post on performance reviews, “at will” is not synonymous with anything goes.

Of course, there are plenty of times when employers push workers out. Sometimes this is even done to many workers at once

In this post, we will take note of a breaking story about the mass firing by UPS of unionized drivers in Queens. Our goal will be to place the case in the context of protections against wrongful termination from a job.

UPS fired 250 drivers after they engaged in a 90-minute work-stoppage protest against the dismissal of a veteran employee who was a union activist. The work stoppage occurred on February 26. UPS announced the firings this week.

For a press account of the case, click here.

Twenty of the employees were fired immediately. The others received notice that they will be terminated as soon as UPS trains replacement workers.

New York’s Public Advocate, Letitia James, urged UPS to reconsider its decision. The drivers’ union representative, the Teamsters union, characterized the terminations as “arbitrary discipline” and has called for the rehiring of the fired workers.

There are also political considerations in play, as UPS receives millions of dollars of city business. Our main point in this post, however, is that one form of wrongful termination is when an employer breaches an employment contract when firing a worker.

To be sure, UPS claims that it had the right to engage in this mass firing because the drivers’ work stoppage was not authorized. That question, however, is a factual one.

The broader principle is that employers’ power to terminate employees is not unlimited if the reason for the firing falls within one of several legal protections. And one of those protections is when there are due process rights granted under an employment contract.

For more information, please visit our wrongful termination page.

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