Nominees for worst employer of the year

… and an early contender for worst employer of the year

It's only January 12 and we already have a nominee for worst employee of 2017, so why not share the love and nominate a worst employer.

Drum roll…

Man Fired For Attending Son’s Birth 

The first day of the new year was pretty eventful for Lamar Austin. The 30-year-old welcomed a son and got fired on the very same day — Jan. 1.… 

On Dec. 31, Austin’s wife Lindsay went into labor. He decided that he was going to stay by her side for the birth of their son…. Yet, in order to do this Austin had to forgo two days of work as a part-time security guard with a company called Salerno Protective Services while his wife was in labor. 

“I thought, ‘I’m just going to do what I feel is right for my family,’ and that’s it,” he told the Huffington Post.

Austin, a military veteran and father of four, had just started the job and was on a 90-day trial period. Despite having shown up to all his previous shifts, he received a text at 1 a.m. on Jan. 1, informing him that he was terminated due to his absences.

Thankfully, my faith in humanity is not shaken. The Huffington Post reports that Austin’s email has been flooded with job offers since this story broke.

And, yes, I get it. New employee. No FMLA. Unclear whether he properly called off work. But seriously? Military vet. New father. Fired via text while by his wife’s postpartum bedside. Am I wrong to think that Salerno Protective Services deserves this nomination?

We will circle back at the end of the year to see if any employer can top this. But, for now, congratulations Salerno Protective Services, you are my first nominee for the Worst Employer of 2017. Follow along all year for future nominees, and an exciting year-end poll to name the winner (or is it the loser?) of this exciting new feature.

The 2nd nominee for the “worst employer of 2017” is… the recorded retaliator

Our next nominee for the Worst Employer of 2017 comes from my very own backyard—Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Here in Northeast Ohio  take our snow removal very seriously, especially (we hope) at the airport, where an icy or snow-covered runway could cause disaster. In 2015, airfield manager Abdul Malik-Al complained to his bosses about his belief that the airport did not sufficiently support its winter-weather crews. Those comments led to the FAA levying a $200,000 fine against the airport.

These issues, however, appear to remain. According to Scene Magazine, on January 19, airfield-maintenance manager Robert Henderson allegedly rounded up his staff and threatened them with retaliation if they leaked any information to the press. Unluckily for Henderson, but luckily for us, an employee recorded his outburst: 

If anybody is caught associating with anything like that, the penalties will be great. So I’m calling y’all together now. Let’s go ahead and put it out there; let’s talk about it right now. So we can get it out of the way. Because if anyone is caught sitting there having a sideline conversations about this, or with [unintelligible] did to somebody else, or let me send it to this friend or let me me do that, that could connect you with something that’s, that’s frowned upon in the organization—to take internal stuff and leak it out to the media. So please don’t engage in, in all that. I’m putting it out right here, right now. It ain’t nothing to whisper about. 

Congratulations, Cleveland Hopkins Airport—or, more specifically, Robert Henderson—you are our second nominee for the Worst Employer of 2017.

The 3rd nominee for the “worst employer of 2017” is … the direct discriminator

Our next nominee for the Worst Employer of 2017 is the defendant in Mayes v. WinCo Holdings (9th Cir. 2/3/17) [pdf]—WinCo, a Bosie, Idaho, supermarket chain.

The plaintiff, Katie Mayes, a night-shift supervisor, was fired for taking a stale cake from the store bakery to share with fellow employees after management allegedly gave her permission to do so. That, however, is not what earned WinCo the nomination. Instead, it’s what the court found Mayes’s direct supervisor expressed about her (yes, her) belief about a woman running the night-shift:


At about the same time the bakery department instructed Mayes to take cakes only from the stales cart, Mayes started experiencing difficulties with Dana Steen, the general manager as of 2007. According to Mayes, Steen replaced Mayes as chair of the safety committee with a male employee, and when she asked Steen for an explanation, Steen told her that “a male would be better in that position.” Mayes testified that when she told McCartney that she thought Steen had treated her unfairly, McCartney advised Mayes to “stay away” from Steen because Steen said she did not like that “a girl” was running the freight crew. Mayes further asserts that in early 2011, Steen criticized her because she had children and could not stay late or come in on her days off. Mayes testified that she told Steen that she had to leave early to pick up her children from school, and that Steen said “kids,” and walked away. According to Mayes, Steen did not make similar comments about kids to Olson, who sometimes also left early because he had to care for his children. 

As the Court correctly noted, “Direct evidence of discrimination is often not easy to come by.” When you find it, however, it earns the employer a well deserved nomination for the Worst Employer of 2017.

The 4th nominee for the “worst employer of 2017” is… the callous non-accommodator


Originally from Ukraine, Michael was born without arms as a result of birth defects resulting from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He rides a modified bike designed specifically for him and his disability. He is extraordinarily inspirational. 

He is also now unemployed.

Trimble’s main form of transportation is a specially designed bicycle with handlebars that extend to his right shoulder and the stump of his left arm. Every day, he bicycled the miles from his home in Gresham to Kroger’s main offices in southeast Portland. 

Two months into his assignment, Trimble had racked up numerous positive performance reviews and the second-highest performance score in his office. But a manager in Kroger’s loss prevention office called to complain about his habit of bringing his bicycle in through the building’s front door, and asked him to carry it up the back stairs. 

Trimble says he explained the obvious: that he can’t carry his bike up a flight of stairs because he doesn’t have arms. 

The manager relented, but said Trimble had to walk his bike through an outdoor courtyard. Again, Trimble said he could not do that because he doesn’t have arms. 

“Can’t you just push your bike?” a supervisor asked him. 

“How can I push my bike?” he responded. “I don’t have any arms.” 

On March 24, 2016, Trimble says, he received two glowing performance audits. But the next day Kroger fired him for refusing to push his bike through the courtyard.

Last week, Trimble filed a disability-discrimination lawsuit against Kroger.

Firing an employee who must ride his bike across your courtyard instead of pushing it because he lacks arms not induces cringes of disgust, but it also earns you a nomination as the Worst Employer of 2017.


The 5th nominee for the “worst employer of 2017” is… the no-pets-for-vets policy

The EEOC recently sued a Florida trucking company for disability discrimination, alleging it failed to accommodate, refused to hire, and retaliated against a job candidate because he used a service dog. (Complaint here [pdf])

So far, so bad. But it gets worse. From the EEOC:

Leon Laferriere applied for a truck driver position with CRST in Fort Myers and signed up for the drivers’ certification course with CRST’s partner training company. After being admitted to the truck driver training program, but prior to leaving for to begin it, Laferriere disclosed his disabilities and use of a trained service dog. Laferriere is a veteran who uses a trained service dog to help control anxiety and to wake him from nightmares caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Laferriere successfully completed the training program, but was denied advancement to orientation and additional on-the-road training. CRST told Laferriere that he could not advance to the on-the-road program, which requires overnights away from home, due to CRST’s “no pet” policy. Laferriere was subsequently denied hire. 

The EEOC also alleges that around the same time that CRST denied Laferriere’s request for accom­modation, CRST developed a new “Service Dog Process” to address accommodation requests seeking the use of a service dog. But CRST denied Laferriere the opportunity to qualify for accommodation under the new policy.

According to the EEOC, Title I of the ADA does not require that employers permit disabled employees to bring service animals to work. Instead, an employer must consider allowing a service animal into the workplace on a case-by-case basis as a reasonable accommodation. Yet, when you have a formal “Service Dog Process” to address this very issue, it’s becomes hard, if not impossible, to argue the unreasonableness of the accommodation without any consideration at all.

For that reason, I nominate this employer for consideration for the “worst employer of 2017.”