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There’s pretext, and then there’s not even bothering

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

It makes a judge’s job easier when a company just fires workers for complaining, rather than trying to concoct elaborate rationalizations.

That’s the tack evidently taken by Pillow Kingdom of Denver, which fired Ed Thomas and Keith Filipazzo the day after they complained of unfair treatment by their supervisor, William Smith. Pillow King argued that the pair unloaded a litany of complaints, most of which had nothing to do with discrimination.

But the judge noted that many of their complaints were protected. Thomas said that Smith often urged him to attend services at Smith’s church, saying, “There’s a place in the Bible for people like you who don’t believe.” He also asked Thomas numerous times to perform unpaid odd jobs for his church.

When a distribution center manager’s position opened up, Smith passed over Filipazzo and Thomas to promote Rick Brockman, a manager with less experience who had started attending Smith’s church. Filipazzo called Smith and Brockman “a little Gestapo,” saying Brockman once shot “spitballs” at him during a management meeting.

Pillow Kingdom contends the men quit. The men say they were fired.

No matter, the judge ruled, noting the men met with upper management one day to complain and received separation agreements the next. The company did “not even proffer a valid, non-retaliatory reason” for the action, the judge observed.

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