A Chicagosub sandwich shop called Snarf’s sent an email to all 20 of its employees on December 22. The email informed the employees of Snarf’s 600 West location that the store was closing, that they were fired as of December 23, and they should turn in any keys or company property they may have on Monday during normal business hours. The story made headlines and led to an apology from the company’s owner. According to Snarf’s owner and CEO the email did not meet the company’s “standards for quality and kindness.” In addition to the apology, the fired employees will receive an additional week of pay and may apply for their old jobs when the restaurant reopens.
A Question of Why
According to Snarf’s owners the company had noticed a decline in profits and some problems with the restaurant over the course of the year. As a result, they decided to close the store for re-purposing. The week of Christmas was usually a slow week for the store, so it was determined that the sooner the business closed the better and what better time than a slow week. Because Snarf’s was going to change from sub sandwiches to burgers, the owners were not certain when the store would reopen and determined it was best to terminate all of the employees at that location. This would allow those employees to apply for unemployment or find other employment options. Snarf’s CEO did admit that their timing was in poor taste and decency. However, some believe that re-purposing was not the true reason behind the sudden closure. Some believe it was retaliation for the employees walking off the job to strike over low fast food wages in December. The store has closed twice this year due to strikes over wages.
Strikes and Wrongful Termination
Federal law protects employees’ rights to “concerted activities” for “mutual aid.” While strikes are traditionally the tool of unions, as we have seen throughout 2013, unions are not the only groups that can harness the power of a strike. Earlier in 2013, a Seattle Subway restaurant worker was allegedly terminated for his participation in a fast food wage strike. Recently twenty New York City Dominos workers were fired after protesting low wages and received state congressional backing for their reinstatement. If these terminations and the closure of Snarf’s restaurant were due to the employee’s participation in the strikes, then the employers may have retaliated against these employees and that violates federal law. Retaliation is one of the underlying causes of wrongful termination. Wrongful termination can occur in many situations, not just for participating in a strike. If you have questions or believe you have been wrongfully terminated, contacting HKM employment attorneys can help.