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The consequences of taking time off to protest

On February 16, thousands of people throughout the country took part in the “Day Without Immigrants” protests. Participants stayed home from work, skipped school, and closed their businesses to show their significant value in the community.

While some protesters had support from their employers, others were not so fortunate.

For twenty employees at a Michigan manufacturing company, attendance at the high-profile protest led to them losing their jobs. Following their termination, the group composed of mostly Latina women banded together and filed a charge with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB).

In their filing, the employees allege that management of EZ Industrial Solutions “coercively questioned” them about their possible involvement in the demonstration. The staff was then threatened with a one-week suspension if they attended.

Their attorney claims that the Chesterfield-based company did not regularly enforce an attendance policy prior to the protest. Instead, employees enjoyed informal schedules without any disciplinary actions for missing work, even when they didn’t inform a supervisor. It was only after management found out about the protest that the company created a unilateral attendance policy.

The employees’ lawyer also alleges that EZ Industrial Solutions threatened to report employees to Immigration Services three weeks after they filed. The threat apparently was in retaliation for not only their participation in the “Day Without Immigrants,” but also NLRB proceedings.

Through their legal counsel, EZ Industrial Solutions claims that the employees were informed that they were needed on the job and had to report for work. Their lawyer asserts that the company acted within its legal rights to terminate those employees, considering the subsequent absence covered two-third of their workforce.

A ruling from the NLRB is pending.

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