“Millennial” Judges Rule Retaliatory to Stop Saying “Good Morning”

Millennials get a bad wrap – some deservedly so – for being warm-fuzzy need-encouragement-at-work kind of people. The old guard, on the other hand expect people to show up, shut up, do their job, and go home. I’m of the generation somewhere in between. But when I ran across this employment law case (sorry hardened labor professionals, I’ll have a more union-oriented post tomorrow) I had to share it with the question – is this the future of employment law?

According to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, as evidence of retaliation against an employee who filed workplace charges against his current employer, the court credited the employee’s testimony that:

  1. The general manager “stopped saying good morning to him”
  2. His direct supervisor “spoke to him without a ‘warm welcome’ in his voice’”
  3. His direct supervisor “continually monitored him at work”
  4. His supervisors “talked to him like he was a criminal”

No commentary on the last two; they’re too vague, and frankly, depending on the facts could rise to a level of retaliation. Let’s focus on the first two.

A manager who stops saying good morning and speaking without a ‘warm welcome’ is an element of retaliation? The Appeals Court placed enough weight on those elements to include them in the analysis. What if numbers 3 and 4 did not exist, would a finding that 1 and 2 occurred be enough for hold the employer liable for retaliating against an employee? This is absurd. Would it still be retaliation if the supervisor, though refraining from saying good morning, gave the employee a trophy for showing up to work? Trophies cure all, don’t they?

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

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