Facebook firing, Lewis Maltby on workers’ rights

Lew Maltby provides a bracing look at workplace rights in Can They Do That?

UPDATE: A new article about the topic of employer spying.

ORIGINAL POST: A 22-year-old waitress was fired recently in North Carolina for complaining on her Facebook page about a couple that gave her a $5 tip after staying at her table for three hours.

This may sound outrageous, but is likely not illegal, according to Lewis Maltby, in his disheartening book, Can They Do That?

The “They” in the book’s title are employers or bosses, and the answer is often, “Yes.”

Maltby writes about employees who were fired for having the “wrong” bumper sticker, for getting a drink after work by a boss who considered drinking a sin, and who had to endure invasive videotaping and personality testing.

All may be arguably immoral, but qualify as legal under our current system of rights.

The former head of the ACLU’s national workplace rights office and the president and founder of the National Workrights Institute, Maltby divides his work into chapters on freedom speech, workplace privacy, employment at will, background checks, psychological and drug testing, genetic discrimination and plant closings, among other topics.

The news is almost universally depressing.

Maltby shows both how few protections exist for workers and how unaware workers often are of their vulnerable positions.

In chapters on judges and arbitration, he also makes the point that having good law on the books is not guarantee, either.

The faint notes of optimism are struck in the last 20 percent of the work. Maltby identifies the rights we do have, talks about how to successfully navigate a hazardous workplace and how to work together to elect more sensitive lawmakers.  This section of the book is familiar but hardly a new and innovative call to action.

The book falters a little bit in its discussion of capitalism and freedom as well as in the chapter of the United States’ responsibility to export human rights to the third world.

Being less strong on remedy does not mean that pointing out the problem is not a contribution.  Maltby’s book reminds us to be careful of employers’ reach, as the waitress in North Carolina discovered, and to know that changing the current system is going to take lots and lots of hard work.

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2 responses to “Facebook firing, Lewis Maltby on workers’ rights

  1. I would like to be the one to make the initial comment on this site. I believe we need to abolish at-will employment and replace it with more of a just cause sytesm. There is a case I am fighting right now and believe my only hope lies in finding a rogue lawyer who will take on the case on a contingency basis. There will be much more on this topic later.

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