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Picket line comments don’t affect unemployment eligibility

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

What striking workers say on the picket line is largely protected speech, even if it’s offensive.

Recent case: During a strike against Verizon Communications, picketing workers brought dogs to walk the line. Tammy brought her Bassett hound and her co-worker brought a pit bull. When a super­­visor left the building, the pit bull ap­proached her and licked her leg. Tammy then said, “Have a piece of Puerto Rican meat,” apparently referring to the supervisor’s national origins.

Tammy was fired. When she was ruled ineligible for unemployment benefits, she appealed.

The court said she should get benefits even though her comment was offensive. What’s said on the picket line is protected speech under federal law, not willful misconduct under Pennsylvania law. (Arndt v. UCBR, No. 702 C.D. 2012, Commonwealth Court, 2013)

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