Worker Complaints Over Tips Not Protected Says NLRB

The firing of a New York airport porter who refused to help a French soccer team with their bags, saying they were “poor” tippers, was legal because the complaint about tips was not a protected concerted employment activity, a NLRB judge ruled Friday.

The NLRB brought the case, claiming that the worker’s complaint about the tips and his refusal to work was a protected concerted activity as a complaint about wages.

But an Administrative Law Judge did not buy that argument and found that issues over tips concern the employee and the customer which are out of the control of the employer. The ALJ ruling said, “In this case, the reason for the refusal to perform work was the perceived dissatisfaction with the customer and not with the employer.” The judge continued, “In my opinion, this was simply an offhand gripe about [the employee’s] belief that French soccer players were poor tippers.”

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at

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