A federal appeals court ruled March 25 that a Jimmy John’s franchisee illegally fired six workers for publicly protesting the company’s sick leave policy. The 8th Circuit US Court of Appeals upheld a National Labor Relations Board finding that MikLin Enterprises, which owns 10 Jimmy John’s franchises in the Twin Cities area, had engaged in unfair labor practices and were directed to rehire the six with back pay.
“We were fired more than five years ago, illegally, for warning the public that our lack of paid sick days meant that they could end up eating sandwiches tainted by germs,” says Max Specktor, one of the six, in a statement. “Justice delayed is justice denied.” MikLin’s workers narrowly voted against joining the Industrial Workers of the World in 2010, but union supporters continued to campaign for paid sick leave, including posters depicting Jimmy John’s sandwiches made by a sick worker. The company argued that the posters were not protected speech under federal labor law, because they were “disloyal.” The court held that there was substantial evidence “tying the effort to obtain paid sick leave with the effect that the lack of paid sick leave could have on MikLin’s product.”