NLRB: Starbucks can't fire cursing, pro-union worker


From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Starbucks cannot fire a union activist employee who cursed at a manager in front of customers, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled for the second time.


The first time, on May 14, 2005, Agins was angry that an assistant manager did not come to help him right away when the shop got busy. When the manager did come to help, Agins said it was “about damn time,” noisily shoved a blender in the sink, said “this is (BS)” and told the manager to “do everything your d**n self.” Agins was suspended for several days and Starbucks wrote a warning, which Agins said he never received.

I guess this means that if you’re pro-union, you do not have to show your boss proper respect, can disregard direction, and insult customers.

What a brave new world.


Sounds like he deserves to be canned.


I agree. I guess one is no longer accountable for their actions as an employee at Starbucks. What a terrible mentality.



While his behavior was wrong, there is a lot more to the story, including the illegal interrogation by a manager while he was at an off duty union event.

Employees have a right to form a union, management generally uses lots of intimidation to prevent one from forming.

In the new ruling, a three-member panel representing the full NLBR relied on a different precent, which says a company cannot fire an employee if the firing was motivated in part by union activity and the company does not prove it would have fired the employee even without the union activity.

The panel said Starbucks treated other employees more leniently for “similar or worse misconduct” in the presence of customers, and noted there was no evidence that the off-duty assistant manager who provoked Agins received any discipline for the incident. It added that Starbucks could not even say who decided to fire Agins and “presented an exaggerated version of Agins’ actions on Nov. 21,” and noted that the NLRB judge in the case credited Agins’ testimony that he never received a warning regarding the May 14 incident (meaning it couldn’t be considered in evaluating the firing).


Late talk show host Bob Grant always said, “America is slip-sliding into Third-Worldism.” As well, “It’s sick and getting sicker!” Rob :banghead:


Respect is something that is earned; not a birthright.


I think that respect may be the wrong word here. I have had plenty of bosses who I did not respect, yet I still did not swear at them. Even in my job where it is likely I could get away with it.


Behaving badly has nothing to do with being pro-union.

[quote=markomalley]What a brave new world.

Only if one thinks the problem with the economy is that unions are too strong.


Yep. It’s called respect for the position. And an employee that does not show the proper respect for the position cannot demand respect for their position either.


No one deserves to be cussed out. An employee that cusses out his employer does not deserve his job. This is the dark side of unions. They should have zero say in someone being fired. If the union cared at all for human dignity, they would have supported canning this man for the way he treated another person while working in the service industry.

I happened in public. The employer should have filed charges. I bet he does next time, and I bet there will be a next time. Character determines behavior.


Except there are reports of a number of other people doing similar or worse things and Starbucks did NOT fire them. They didn’t even give him a warning for the alleged incident which means they fired him for another reason and made this up as an excuse.

Unions are excellent at ensuring employers follow their own rules and procedures and apply discipline fairly to everyone.


I find it hard to reconcile cussing out a boss in front of customers as an “excuse”.

Unions are excellent at ensuring employers follow their own rules and procedures and apply discipline fairly to everyone

They are also excellent at protecting terrible employees, over-inflating wages and even on occasion bankrupting business. I concede they also do a lot of good, just not in this case.


If 10 people swear in front of customers and one of them is fired for it while 9 are given a verbal warning, it is an excuse.


That didn’t happen. The ill-tempered employee was complaining about being alone.


Actually it did happen. Not at the same time but there were multiple accounts of “the same or worse happening” and no one else was fired in those instances.


I would guess that they did not, at least in the same way. There may be one or two gutless managers that do not mind being cussed out by the barista that works for them, but I bet they are no the rule. I find it hard to believe any company has an accepted practice of allowing both extreme disrespect of any co-worker (especially superiors) and allowing employers to act like a jerk in front of the public.


I wonder why no letter of reprimand was given and he was fired months later. :shrug:


Maybe the manager was so traumatized he spent all the time in the hospital???

Seriously, I don’t know. Maybe this company is so loosey-goosey this sort of think is just a wrist slap. I just can’t see how they can operate keeping both a hostile environment and gross insubordination.


I’ve yet to see a labor contract that allows for swearing at a supervisor; in fact unions have zero say in someone’s termination, except for whatever has been agreed to in a labor contract.

The union did not get the employee back the job, the National Labor Relations Board did, so you’ll have to rule out the “if the union cared at all for all human dignity” rational.

I agree, character does determine behavior, however by virtue of the fact that one is a “Boss” or “Supervisor” does not allow that person to subject an employee to vulgarities nor treat the employee in a non-dignified fashion. Likewise the employee should not direct vulgarities towards the “Boss” or “Supervisor” nor treat the “Boss” or “Supervisor” in a non-dignified fashion, however only if it is a two-way street. The rules have to apply for both sides and since it doesn’t, it’s all fair game in this situation.


It’s nice to see the NLRB doing it’s job.:thumbsup:

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