Here at the Sidley Austin Employment Law Blog, we’re big fans of most holidays. In fact, we’ll happily put our festiveness quotient up against any other group of wage/hour class action professionals who regularly use the word “quotient” in a sentence. However, St. Patrick’s Day is on March 17th, and that’s just a hot mess from an employment law perspective.
Let’s start with that whole “pinch anyone who is not wearing green” tradition -- don’t do that. Plus, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekday this year, so there will likely be lots of employees across the country heading to bars after work to drink some frighteningly green colored alcoholic beverages. Remember, harassment claims can arise at social functions after work, and the law does not contain any leprechaun exceptions.
Finally, although we pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge of employment law developments, we’re taking you back on this “Flashback Friday” to Waterbury Hotel Management, LLC, v. National Labor Relations Board, a case from the halcyon days of 2003. There, the employer terminated two employees because they wore pro-union pins, purportedly in violation of the company’s general prohibition against wearing unauthorized pins and badges. The NLRB, however, found that the termination was invalid because, when the employees previously wore unauthorized shamrock buttons, company managers, ”perhaps swept up in the St. Patrick's Day spirit,” said nary a word. Employers must be consistent about badges, pins, and other “flair,” and cannot permit an employee to wear some non-work related items but prohibit similar types of items that convey pro-union messages.
We wish you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day and hope you have a wonderful (i.e., incontrovertibly appropriate) holiday.