Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Think Before You Click on "Post."

Joseph Gumpher, III was a junior painter for Epic Metals Corporation who was told when hired that he might occasionally have to work evenings.  Mr. Gumpher was married with four children, one of whom was a child with special needs.  When Mr. Gumpher's job started, his wife was not working. Eventually, his wife did get a job on night shift.

There was no career conflict between the couple until December of 2015 when Mr. Gumpher was assigned again to night shift.  His wife was able to switch to day shift at that time, but she was also told that subsequent requests would be denied.  When Mr. Gumpher was again asked to work nights a few months later, he told his supervisor and said he couldn't work a night shift.

Then he posted the following to his Facebook account:

"Time for a change, Work decided to have 2nd Shift, (Picked for that) don't like, so chose not to . . . it's a choice you can make when retired.  There are other jobs, time to relax for a while."  

He also stopped going to work, did not ask about returning, and then filed for unemployment compensation benefits.

The referee denied him benefits, the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review affirmed the denial, and after Mr. Gumpher appealed to court on his own behalf, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court also affirmed the denial of benefits.

An employee who quits his job due to "necessitous and compelling reasons" may be entitled to benefits.  Certainly there is case law providing that care for children or special needs dependents may justify quitting a job.  The Commonwealth Court found here, however, that Mr. Gumpher's efforts to solve his dilemma were totally insufficient to show that his quit was due to "necessitous and compelling" reasons.

They weren't so crazy about his publicly throwing up his hands in surrender on Facebook either.

While the court's decision was based upon more than just the ill-advised Facebook post, a word to the wise is sufficient.

Don't post anything on Facebook that you don't want to read about in a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court decision.

The official court opinion may be found here.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Note:  I joined a panel last week at the Solo & Small Firm Section Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania Bar Association which was providing "hot tips" with late-breaking developments in several practice areas.  My area, naturally, was employment law.  Over the next few weeks, I'll highlight a few of these tips in greater detail.

Whistleblowers:  There are two types of whistleblowers under the Dodd-Frank Act.  The first type consists of those whistleblowers who only report internally within a company of irregularities, and the second type consists of those whistleblowers to make external reports to agencies such as provided for under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  To date, there has been a split among the circuit courts of appeals as to whether the retaliation provisions of Dodd-Frank extend to both types of whistleblowers, or only those who make external reports.

On June 26, 2017 the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers.  You can find the petition for certiorari here.

Presumably some time next term of the United States Supreme Court we will get a definitive answer to the question.