Terminated employees staging protest? Consider suing to force them to stop

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in Firing,Human Resources

Here’s a bit of good news for employers that must terminate some of their employees because the IRS says their Social Security numbers are invalid. If they stage an unfair protest against their firings, you can sue them to stop.

Recent case: When the IRS notified Overhill Farms that 231 of its employees had provided invalid Social Security numbers, the company asked the workers to correct the errors or submit new identity documentation. Only one employee did. The rest ignored the request, so Overhill terminated them after concluding they were undocumented workers.

Some of those former employees—who had worked for Overhill for many years—began a protest campaign. They issued press releases stating that Overhill was an “unfair and racist employer” that had used the Social Security number discrepancies as a pretext to get rid of older Hispanic workers and replace them with part-time employees who received no benefits.

Overhill sued the group, alleging defamation and asking for a court injunction halting the protests. The court agreed. (Overhill Farms v. Lopez, et al., No. G042984, Court of Appeal of California, 2010)

Final note: Ordinarily, courts grant great latitude to protesting employees. But in this case, the court was offended by the use of the word “racist” in the protest literature, calling it one of the worst terms that can be applied to an employer.

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