NLRB reinstates free meals for striking BBQ workers

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Employer cut the meals because there was a legal strike. Gates & Sons Barbeque of Missouri runs six restaurants in the Kansas City, Missouri area, and this case involves the Main Street location. Employees there had been getting the benefit of a free lunch when they were on shift.

In July 2013 seven of the 30 employees participated in a city-wide strike to obtain higher wages. A few days before the strike the store manager told a few of the employees that they would “feel [his] wrath” if they participated in the strike, and threatened them with termination. [If you've read this far, you can see where this is going.]

The week after the strike, the employer allowed the strikers to return to work, but announced that it was discontinuing certain employee benefits, including the free employee meals.

Although a supervisor testified that the free meals were discontinued because of customer complaints, the NLRB's ALJ found this "not at all credible."

So it was a pretty easy decision (signed by a unanimous three-Member panel) that the employer violated Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA by discontinuing the free employee meal benefit because employees ceased work concertedly and engaged in a protected strike. Therefore, the Board ordered the employer to reinstate the free employee meal benefit and make employees whole for any loss of benefits suffered as a result of the discriminatory discontinuation of the free employee meal benefit.

Gates & Sons Barbeque of Missouri, Inc. (NLRB 09/16/2014).