Wal-Mart fires Associate of the Year for using (state legal) medical marijuana
March 18, 2010 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Joseph Casias recently decided, after 10 years, to alleviate the pain of his sinus cancer with medical marijuana--which is legal with a doctor's recommendation in Michigan. A commended Wal-Mart employee for five years, Casias was promptly fired by the company after failing a drug test. Now, Wal-Mart is working to deny Casias unemployment benefits.
posted by mrgrimm (83 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't quite understand the outrage here. Barring certain types of discrimination, businesses have every right to require their employees to avoid certain behaviors, regardless of the legality or the therapeutic effects of those behaviors. Don't like it, don't buy products from them.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:01 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


businesses have every right to require their employees to avoid certain behaviors, regardless of the legality or the therapeutic effects of those behaviors.

No, they don't.
posted by oddman at 12:02 PM on March 18, 2010 [45 favorites]


oddman: Well, federal law still has mary jane as a controlled substance, and since federal law trumps state law, it's pretty obviously a gray area.
posted by absalom at 12:04 PM on March 18, 2010


Wal-Mart officials will no longer object to Casias receiving [unemployment] benefits, company spokesman Greg Rossiter told FoxNews.com.
posted by ericost at 12:04 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wal-Mart is a plague. Marijuana's legal status is absurd. Next.
posted by Babblesort at 12:06 PM on March 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


Oddman, can you elaborate?
posted by craven_morhead at 12:08 PM on March 18, 2010


I read in the paper this morning that Wal-Mart is opening super-centres in my city starting this year, which will add 'grocery stores' to the long list of businesses that will be cutting back or closing thanks to Wal-Mart.

Those places pay decent wages and provide good benefits to (generally) unionised workers who turn around and spend that money with other local merchants. This is a good thing. Those jobs going away are a bad thing, both for the workers themselves, and for the community that benefits from their ability to spend a few more dollars a month.

Add to this scenario the very well-documented, systemic abuse of minorities, women, and suppliers by Wal-Mart and it boggles the mind that people still support them.

I have yet to hear a reasonable, and well-thought out argument to explain *why* having a Wal-Mart in a city is a good thing. When I ask my friends who shop there, the only response I hear is, "They are cheaper." From now on, when I hear this argument from someone, I am going to take a copy of these articles and attach them to their forehead with a god damn staplegun.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:08 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


oddman: "No, they don't."

What do you mean? Isn't it perfectly legal for an employer to fire an employee for, say, visiting a chiropractor? Why wouldn't it be?
posted by Perplexity at 12:09 PM on March 18, 2010


Wal-Mart does drug testing?
posted by chugg at 12:09 PM on March 18, 2010


I don't quite understand the outrage here. Barring certain types of discrimination, businesses have every right to require their employees to avoid certain behaviors, regardless of the legality or the therapeutic effects of those behaviors.

Would this be the reason that the personality test Wal-Mart has you take before hiring and later on asks so many questions that would identify people with depression? I lied on those questions so badly when they asked during their "pay reconstruction" because I was afraid how they'd react.

On a separate note, Wal-Mart pretty much challenges all unemployment claims no matter how valid. They challenge until they have to show up in court and then if there is no chance of them winning they just don't show up. Pretty much an attempt to scare folks out of the benefits they've been paying into and deserve (usually).
posted by charred husk at 12:10 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Note that the actual Michigan law that legalized it says:
(c) Nothing in this act shall be construed to require:

(2) An employer to accommodate the ingestion of marihuana in any workplace or any employee working while under the influence of marihuana.
Also, it's not like Walmart is unique here. This is routine practice. It's made it to the Supreme Courts in both California (in 2008) and Montana (in 2009). In both cases, the company won. They can fire someone for violating federal law even if the same thing is legal under state law.
posted by smackfu at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


(If it wasn't clear, the companies in those Supreme Court cases were not Walmart.)
posted by smackfu at 12:12 PM on March 18, 2010


I'd make my shocked face but I really am worried that a Wal-Mart executive's boot would be stomping on it forever.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:12 PM on March 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Isn't it perfectly legal for an employer to fire an employee for, say, visiting a chiropractor?

Next up: a company run by Scientologists fire anyone who sees a psychiatrist.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:14 PM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


smackfu,

I don't think anyone is arguing that it was strictly an illegal move, I think that they are arguing that it was a dick move.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:14 PM on March 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


Companies may have the ability to fire anyone for anything, but that doesn't give them the right to, any more than the domination of segregationism in the 1950's South meant that restaurants had the right to refuse service to blacks.

That you can do something, even that you can get away with it, doesn't give you the right to do it.

Note that the actual Michigan law that legalized it says:

(c) Nothing in this act shall be construed to require:

(2) An employer to accommodate the ingestion of marihuana in any workplace or any employee working while under the influence of marihuana.


You can and will test positive for marijuana for up to 40 days after you smoke it. Testing positive for marijuana doesn't in any sense mean that you're high.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:14 PM on March 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Don't like it, don't buy products from them.

Thus the boycott.

By the way, discriminating against people with cancer happens to be one of the "certain types of discrimination" which are illegal:

The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations in the workplace for qualified individuals with a disability and protects the person with cancer from being asked personal questions outside of job-related medical questions.

Seems to me that accepting Casias' medical marijuana card would have been a "reasonable accommodation" in this case. I doubt it'd stand up in court, as our justice system has proved a thousand times over that the "dangers" of marijuana trump our rights, but I don't think this is nearly as cut-and-dried as Wal*Mart would like it to be.
posted by vorfeed at 12:14 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


since federal law trumps state law, it's pretty obviously a gray area.

And they've decided to stand on the wrong side of that gray line by punishing a cancer victim for getting treatment.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on March 18, 2010


There is a case with similarities to the one in the FPP going on in Colorado right now, and there will likely be others around the country in the next few years. Collectively, these cases will bring the disparate nature of marijuana laws and the conflicting nature of the various tiers of legality to the fore, and eventually they will have to be resolved. I can only hope that it will be a resolution against prohibition, because it's a failed policy all around.
posted by hippybear at 12:20 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty, discrimination against blacks isn't a very good example, since that is a badge of slavery under the 13th Amendment, which is, incidentally, the only one that directly applies to conduct by private parties.

WinnipegDragon, some people are trying to argue that it was an illegal move, including an attorney quoted in one of the articles. Obviously, it was a dick move, but that's nothing new for Wal-Mart.

vorfeed, I think the Michigan statute is directly addressing the reasonable accommodation issue.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:20 PM on March 18, 2010


I'm sorry, but I can't determine who to side with without some crucial information: is he a hipster and/or art school graduate?
posted by usonian at 12:20 PM on March 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was just trying to find an uncontroversial example of how being allowed to do something by law doesn't mean you have the right to do it in any moral sense.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:22 PM on March 18, 2010


Ah, I understand.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:23 PM on March 18, 2010


>> businesses have every right to require their employees to avoid certain behaviors, regardless of the legality or the therapeutic effects of those behaviors.
> No, they don't.


The argument is going to heat up over the word "right". Let's start over with a new premise:

The law allows businesses to impose various requirements on their employees. Businesses are able to make requirements that are both law-abiding and unethical.

Was Wal-Mart's behavior illegal or legal, ethical or unethical?
posted by ardgedee at 12:27 PM on March 18, 2010


You can and will test positive for marijuana for up to 40 days after you smoke it.

This is not true.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:27 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


(2) An employer to accommodate the ingestion of marihuana in any workplace or any employee working while under the influence of marihuana.

He didn't "ingest marihuana in the workplace" or "work while under the influence". He failed a drug test. Drug tests are nothing like a breathalyzer -- they detect the previous use of marijuana, not current intoxication, and they do so for several weeks afterward.

vorfeed, I think the Michigan statute is directly addressing the reasonable accommodation issue.

No, it doesn't. The Michigan statute says that companies don't have to accommodate employees if they use their medicine while at work, or are under the influence of it while at work. It does not say that companies don't have to accommodate employees who use their medicine off-the-clock.
posted by vorfeed at 12:27 PM on March 18, 2010 [9 favorites]


I don't think anyone is arguing that it was strictly an illegal move, I think that they are arguing that it was a dick move.

This.

I think you've hit on the crux of a lot of our problems. We've handed the balance of power to people like this; people who have no class or humanity or desire to accomodate anybody but themselves. We can change all the laws we want, but it won't do any good unless we collectively call out this kind of behavior every time it happens.

(Maybe I'm just an aging old hippie, but "you're being a dick" is a forceful and very effective argument for me and all my friends.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


vorfeed, as I understand it, there isn't a test for being under the influence of marijuana at work; something like a breathalyser. Aside from just going on a subjective personal impression (e.g. does John look stoned? Smell funny?), how would you suggest that companies determine if employees are under the influence of marijuana.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2010


Jaredseth, and Pope Guilty elaborated on the points I thought were fairly obvious. A legal ability is not a right. I have the legal ability to drive a car on the right side of the road, I doubt very much that I have either a moral or social right to do so.
Furthermore, no one (employers or otherwise) should have the ability (let alone the right) to discriminate against a class of people making use of a legal medical treatment. I doubt very much that the local Wal-mart manager was simply attempting to avoid being prosecuted by the federal government for abetting a "drug-user." (Especially since the current administration is more permissive on that front.)
posted by oddman at 12:33 PM on March 18, 2010


I have yet to hear a reasonable, and well-thought out argument to explain *why* having a Wal-Mart in a city is a good thing. When I ask my friends who shop there, the only response I hear is, "They are cheaper." From now on, when I hear this argument from someone, I am going to take a copy of these articles and attach them to their forehead with a god damn staplegun.

"They are cheaper."

Seriously, it's a valid argument. Jason Furman (economist, advisor to Obama, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council) has attempted to quantify the benefits of their lower prices (warning: PDF) and found that Wal-Mart is ultimately very progressive.

Most low-income households aren't employed by businesses that compete directly with Wal-Mart. Nearly all low-income households benefit directly or indirectly from their lower grocery prices.

That's not to say that Wal-Mart couldn't clean up their act in some ways, but you should really think twice before dismissing "They are cheaper". Lower grocery prices benefit a huge number of people, especially the poor who spend a higher percentage of their income on groceries.
posted by ripley_ at 12:34 PM on March 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


So, from Wal-Mart's point of view, if Mr. Casias had showed up for his drug test with a prescription for Oxycontin and a system swimming in opiates that'd be OK? Cuz a pill is "real" medicine but marijuana isn't? This is absurd. I'm sure that there are Wal-Mart associates at that very store who show up for work vibrating like tuning forks from a meth binge but they're gonna "make an example" out of a former Associate of the Year who's never missed a day of work and , oh yeah, happens to have an inoperable brain tumor? You'd think that at some point in this process some PR guy in a shiny suit would have put the kibosh on this and allowed Mr. Casias to get back to herding carts.

A coupole of weeks ago I was reading about a new program Wal-Mart has started that will encourage small farmers and growers to grow organically and sell their produce in the nearest Wal-Mart stores. It sounded like a win-win to me: Wal-Mart saves money on transportation, Wal-Mart shoppers have access to affordable organic produce, small farmers everywhere suddenly have a huge new buyer for their goods, and millions of gallons of gas are saved by not having to ship produce first to a distribution center and then to a store hundreds of miles away. I thought it was a great idea, and I was all ready to commend Wal-Mart for their innovation. Then they do some shit like this and remind me of why I hate them in the first place.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:35 PM on March 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Aside from just going on a subjective personal impression (e.g. does John look stoned? Smell funny?), how would you suggest that companies determine if employees are under the influence of marijuana?

Why would they? If he's performing badly, then fire him. It doesn't matter why he performed badly (drugs, apathy, ,ineptness, vindictiveness), just that you care about work ethic and performance more than whether Bill The Greeter is doing gravity bong hits in his offtime.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 12:42 PM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was about to make the same point BitterOldPunk did - opiates are a common painkiller for severe pain. Not employing people with pain conditions would very much contravene the ADA from my understanding of it; I have no idea why they're treating marijuana any differently.

Oh, wait, yes I do, because they're totally evil! Knew there was a reason!
posted by Coobeastie at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2010


Sadly, in many professions, "you're being a dick" is a badge of honor, if not an actual job requirement. The legal profession, entertainment industry, Wall St., and the higher echelons of Large Business spring to mind.
posted by umberto at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


ripley_

I understand that a lower income family will benefit from less expensive groceries, that would be common sense. My point is that, there is a larger picture than just each individual families checkbook.

I'm still reading the PDF, but it seems to be focused strictly on the economics of the situation and there is more to their impact than just dollars and cents.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2010


there isn't a test for being under the influence of marijuana at work; something like a breathalyser. Aside from just going on a subjective personal impression (e.g. does John look stoned? Smell funny?), how would you suggest that companies determine if employees are under the influence of marijuana.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:30 PM on March 18


if being under the influence of marijuana is indistinguishable from not being under the influence of marijuana, then who gives a shit

these are greeters, cashiers, stockers - important jobs in the big scheme of things but no one's going to die if the grandpa saying hello as you enter is a little baked
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:47 PM on March 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


vorfeed, as I understand it, there isn't a test for being under the influence of marijuana at work; something like a breathalyser. Aside from just going on a subjective personal impression (e.g. does John look stoned? Smell funny?), how would you suggest that companies determine if employees are under the influence of marijuana.

"Subjective personal impression" is exactly how people get fired for being under the influence at work. I can guarantee you that the boss at Wal*Mart does not carry a breathalyser, nor does he require one before he can fire an employee who seems to be under the influence of alcohol... so why should he need a special test to fire somebody who seems to be stoned at work?
posted by vorfeed at 12:48 PM on March 18, 2010


Don't like it, don't buy products from them.

Way ahead of you on that in regards to WalMart (and for many reasons).
posted by HyperBlue at 12:50 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: And they've decided to stand on the wrong side of that gray line by punishing a cancer victim for getting treatment.

Further, isn't it awfully convenient that they happened to fire the guy with the expensive medical condition, thus denying him his health benefits?
posted by Malor at 12:53 PM on March 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


What Walmart may or may not requirte from its employees is one issue, but the attempt to deny unemployment pay is not. Many companies, since they contribute to unemployment, try this scam but usually the ex worker will prevail. It happened to me.
posted by Postroad at 12:54 PM on March 18, 2010


You can and will test positive for marijuana for up to 40 days after you smoke it.

This is not true


I know Erowid only says 15-30 days, even for habitual users, but I've seen other sites claim urine tests can work up to 2-3 months after you stop smoking it, if you were a very heavy user.

And some companies that make hair tests claim they can catch use back as far as 5 months (although, again, Erowid only says 90 days.)

Still, if there's a hair test involved, it's going to go back more than 40 days.

Regardless, it all has very little do with anything in this story.

Aside from just going on a subjective personal impression (e.g. does John look stoned? Smell funny?), ...

It's always going to be a subjective personal impression to some degree. What do you think the cops do when they test drivers? I've heard that law enforcement was working on a swab detection system, but I haven't seen anything about it.

how would you suggest that companies determine if employees are under the influence of marijuana.

I wouldn't. I'd suggest they evaluate each employee's performance objectively. Who cares if your employee is stoned if he does a good job?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:00 PM on March 18, 2010


Isn't it perfectly legal for an employer to fire an employee for, say, visiting a chiropractor? Why wouldn't it be?

Because then employers could use concocted reasons just to fire people they don't like (but I guess as long as you're not a protected class it's OK). Can you be fired for talking to your employees about unionizing?

Hmm. After a quick survey, I guess you can. Go USA!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:07 PM on March 18, 2010


What do you mean? Isn't it perfectly legal for an employer to fire an employee for, say, visiting a chiropractor? Why wouldn't it be?

Woah, woah, woah. I'm gonna need someone to explain this to me. You can get fired for going to the chiropractor?
posted by chugg at 1:11 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's only a 52% chance that Wal Mart is even on the hook for his benefits. They're famous for getting guys like him onto the government plans.
posted by irisclara at 1:14 PM on March 18, 2010


but I guess as long as you're not a protected class it's OK

Yep, that's what at-will employment is all about. Legally I'm pretty sure they're fine here, unless this was cover for firing him for protected reasons.

(Of course, in practice this means businesses usually want a provable story for why they fire someone, so they dont end up in court being charged with firing for one of the few illegal reasons. And not all states have at-will employment).
posted by wildcrdj at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2010


In some states you can get fired for just about anything.
posted by oddman at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2010


I understand that a lower income family will benefit from less expensive groceries, that would be common sense. My point is that, there is a larger picture than just each individual families checkbook.

WalMart's lower prices means a poor family can buy groceries and still have money left to buy new shoes. If WalMart lets some overworked single mom escape the dilemma of empty stomachs versus blistered feet, I don't think it's fair to ask her to consider the "larger picture."

I try not shop at WalMart because I can afford not to and because I believe WalMart does more harm than good to families, cities, and America.

But I try not to judge people who shop at WalMart, because it might be what gets them through month, just like food stamps.
posted by hhc5 at 1:20 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have yet to hear a reasonable, and well-thought out argument to explain *why* having a Wal-Mart in a city is a good thing.
If you lived in Carrollton, Georgia, in the mid-90s, as I did, and you wanted, say, a box of screws or a hairdryer on Saturday afternoon or any time on Sunday, not to mention after 6 pm on a weekday, you'd be very happy that there was a WalMart in town, as it was the only place to get such things.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:36 PM on March 18, 2010


The Atlantic Monthly's current issue has an interesting article about WalMart and their grocery department and organic and local purchasing, etc. It's worth a read. I'm still not going to shop at WalMart, but I found the article quite interesting.
posted by hippybear at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2010


Oh please someone FUCK WALMART UP THE ASS WITH THE MOST MASSIVE CIVIL SUIT EVER FILED and all the bad, bad, bad, PR that can be ratched up. It's the Pot smokers of the world versus Walmart. OMG is that even a fair battle?? NO EFFIN' WAY, DESTROY DESTROY DESTROY THE Chinese plastics MEGALITH...

Let's see how quickly they can issue an apology and and start selling jumbo Bongs in hardwares for 99 cents a dozen, in like 3...2.....
posted by Skygazer at 1:42 PM on March 18, 2010



Aside from just going on a subjective personal impression (e.g. does John look stoned? Smell funny?), how would you suggest that companies determine if employees are under the influence of marijuana.

Yeah. I can't think of any job at Walmart I could not perform adequately while under the influence except maybe meat cutter in the butcher shop. Actually it would make me a more congenial greeter.
posted by notreally at 1:44 PM on March 18, 2010


n some states you can get fired for just about anything.
posted by oddman at 4:17 PM on March 18 [+] [!]


It's that horrible "at will..." clause a lot of states allow because they think it attracts employers (Read: Oppressive slave-labor franchises that suck all the all out of places that once had character and a downtown.)

Basically you can be terminated for anything at all, or no reason at all.
posted by Skygazer at 1:45 PM on March 18, 2010


I'm still reading the PDF, but it seems to be focused strictly on the economics of the situation and there is more to their impact than just dollars and cents.

Well, a big chunk of your original post was about those dollars and cents (the downward pressure on wages that Wal-Mart creates). That study indicates that those costs are far, far outweighed by the benefits of lower prices.

I'm not defending everything that Wal-Mart does - for one, I think that big-box stores are a blight on urban form at best. I do however think they are a net positive because it boggles the mind how much welfare is produced by lower grocery prices on a wide scale.
posted by ripley_ at 1:55 PM on March 18, 2010


However there are stores that have good prices and somehow manage to not treat their employees quite as badly as Wal-Mart. Costco, and to a lesser extent Winco, for example.

However I've heard that half the problem in the really poor areas is actually having access to any sort of grocery store in the first place.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:04 PM on March 18, 2010


Malor : Further, isn't it awfully convenient that they happened to fire the guy with the expensive medical condition, thus denying him his health benefits?

More convenient even than merely lowering their healthcare overhead - Some hungry young lawyer should push for attempted murder, since Walmart actively makes money when their peons die.

IANAL, but it seems to me that if you stand to directly benefit from someone's death, and take actions encouraging that person to die, you should have some liability there. Perhaps not outright criminal, but surely some civil version of "deliberate negligence"?
posted by pla at 2:06 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Skygazer, could you explain your beef with at-will employment laws a little more? If I hire you for something and decide to pay you money to do it, why would you feel some sort of entitlement to keep working for me if I decide that I don't want you to anymore? In any state we can agree to an employment contract that only lets me fire you for "good cause," however we decide to define that. But why should the default be that everyone should be entitled to stay at their jobs, but for committing some fireable offense? Or is that not what you're arguing for?
posted by craven_morhead at 2:10 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


God, I love corporate America. It's so good for us!
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:26 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't like it, don't buy products from them

Unless, you know, you work for them and there aren't any other jobs.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:28 PM on March 18, 2010


This is one of the many cases where legality and ethics are not on speaking terms. Ethically, Wal-Mart are clearly being douchebags, meddling where they have no business meddling. Legally, they have every right to do what they did. With very few limited exceptions, a business in the US can fire a non-contract employee for any reason or no reason. The limitations are things like race, religion and marital status. Beyond that, they pretty much have free reign to do what they want, however dickish it may be.

And its not all that unusual for a business to fire someone for something that is perfectly legal. It is, for example, perfectly legal to loudly proclaim that in your opinion, your boss is a dickhead. Your boss may even in fact be an enormous dickhead, hands down. They can still fire you for saying it, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it in the US.

That having been said, Wal-Mart are dickheads.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 2:30 PM on March 18, 2010


Federal law > State law. And the state law in this case says that employers don't need to allow it.

Sorry, "medical" mj is still against the (federal) law.

(Yes, scare quotes.)
posted by andreaazure at 2:42 PM on March 18, 2010


I've only got one question : Why does any vaguely competent person work for Wal-Mart? I'd say we're squandering tallent if anyone sufficiently competent to get a medical marijuana license works at Wal-Mart.

In fact, I'd say the most effective anti-walmart strategy for unions would be (a) identify competent Wal-Mart employees, and (b) get them jobs elsewhere.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:44 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


" why should the default be that everyone should be entitled to stay at their jobs, but for committing some fireable offense"

Ooh, I'll take that one, since I am from a country and culture with a very different attitude to the US in this area.

The reason is the inequality of bargaining power between workers and bosses, particularly when there is structural unemployment. In a limited number of cases, some workers can pick and choose and walk from one job into another, but mostly, workers need jobs far more than bosses need workers. The at-will environment allows employers to oppress people in domains outside workplace conduct using fear of unemployment (and in the US, loss of healthcare coverage) as a weapon, and we find that an unconscionable limit on workers' rights.

Therefore, as a matter of policy, we find it preferable to let people contract into an "at will" situation, while defaulting to some basic protections like "if you're doing your job to a reasonable standard (including not committing misconduct, yadda yadda) and your position isn't redundant, you can't be fired."

This is the prevailing consensus in most of the civilised world and here as elsewhere the US is an outlier. Really, you should be justifying the peculiarity.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:52 PM on March 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


Joe's_spleen, do you see any sort of intersection between for-cause employment systems and an increased difficulty in starting your own business? It seems like one response to a system in which employers have too much power relative to employees would be to try and become an employer (though I realize that this rejoinder smacks of "well, geez, just pull yourself up by your bootstraps).
posted by craven_morhead at 2:57 PM on March 18, 2010


Employment laws often make allowances for business with small numbers of employees. A well constructed bill to give workers some protection from being fired at will could easily have exemptions for businesses with fewer than five people, for example.
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:00 PM on March 18, 2010


craven_morhead: employers DO bitch and moan about this here, but we don't seem to lack for small businesses nonetheless -- in fact, we have lots of startups because it's so easy to form a new business here. In terms of ease of operating a business etc, we do ok. So I guess your proposition is plausible, but I don't see any actual evidence for the effect.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:11 PM on March 18, 2010


Skygazer : Basically you can be terminated for anything at all, or no reason at all.

Yeah, the "at will" Sword of Damocles is a really shitty thing to have to work under, particularly with the economy the way it is. Living with the constant fear that management might just decide that an incremental increase in profitability over the next year could be had by closing down a location and making a different office act as a 'virtual call center' is the thing that keeps a lot of us awake at night.
posted by quin at 3:21 PM on March 18, 2010


I'm proud to say I haven't dropped a nickel at Walmart in over ten years, and I plan to spend the entire rest of my life never, ever setting foot into one.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:33 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


craven_morhead: there isn't a test for being under the influence of marijuana at work

Of course there is; it's called a field sobriety test, and it works by measuring whether your abilities are impaired. I have never had an objection to using this kind of test. I have very great objections to using tests that screen you for stuff you do off-site and off-hours, most especially when those things are legal.

There have been laws against public intoxication since long before there were breathalyzers and the authorities somehow managed to make it work.
posted by localroger at 4:01 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


if treatment of a recognized medical condition with a recognized palliative agent renders a person unable to work in the opinion of their employer, they should be entitled to disability benefits, no?
posted by Fupped Duck at 4:32 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


wakes me when Wal-Mart just straight up hires Pinkertons to muscle people into working against their will.
posted by The Whelk at 5:15 PM on March 18, 2010


I'm really glad Walmart gave me yet another reason not to shop there.

One of my daughters used to work for WAllyworld, and I saw how they jerked her around-hiring her for fulltime then as soon as she was about to qualify for benefits, dropping her to part time (and she was supporting herself at the time!)

Yes, they are cheaper, and yes, I hold my nose and go to Sam's Club altho they are owned by the same people (oh how I wish we had a Costco) but you know, with coupons and sales I can do just about as well elsewhere. And the quality of the food I purchase is much better.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:05 PM on March 18, 2010


ripley_:

"...he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it."

- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, IV-2.

While I agree that Walmart's low prices are often a blessing for consumers, I'm not at all sure that this is evidence of any progressive intention on their part.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:23 PM on March 18, 2010


"...he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it."

- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, IV-2.


I've brought this up before, but it bears repeating. This passage is the only time the term "invisible hand" is used in The Wealth of Nations. And the point that Smith was making was that the employer, who was also a member of the local community, benefitted the community when he acted in his own interest. The idea of multi-national corporations with absentee owners who couldn't care less what happened locally wasn't even something Smith could contemplate.

There is no "invisible hand" (in the good sense) anymore.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:38 PM on March 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


wakes me when Wal-Mart just straight up hires Pinkertons to muscle people into working against their will.

Those cocksuckers at the Yankton Walmart have already done so.
posted by Mister_A at 8:02 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


While I agree that Walmart's low prices are often a blessing for consumers, I'm not at all sure that this is evidence of any progressive intention on their part.

I completely agree.
posted by ripley_ at 8:32 PM on March 18, 2010


Two Things:

1) I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart a few months ago, and this is just one more reason why that was a good decision. (The final straw was meat that while beautifully red on the outside was purple inside.)

2) I am shocked to learn that Wal-Mart does drug testing. They seem to cut corners on everything else, why would a few high employees matter. Honestly it might make the customer service better.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:51 PM on March 18, 2010


Some points.

-They only drug tested him after an on the job injury. (standard policy in most workplaces for insurance reasons) Nobody ever accused him of being under the influence on the job.

-The applicable state law specifically states that unless the employee works stoned, an employer cannot fire somebody for using medical Marijuana.
posted by Megafly at 9:04 PM on March 18, 2010


I'm sorry, but I can't determine who to side with without some crucial information: is he a hipster and/or art school graduate?

in battle creek? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!
posted by pyramid termite at 9:12 PM on March 18, 2010


I wonder if getting a prescription for Marinol (Synthetic Cannabinoid) would be a way around this problem. This prescription should comply with both state and federal laws. The only question is whether Marinol can be distinguished from marijuana on a drug test. Anyone know?
posted by Krapulous at 1:24 AM on March 19, 2010


Megafly, what language in the statute are you relying on for your second point?
posted by craven_morhead at 8:07 AM on March 19, 2010


WalMart's lower prices means a poor family can buy groceries and still have money left to buy new shoes. If WalMart lets some overworked single mom escape the dilemma of empty stomachs versus blistered feet, I don't think it's fair to ask her to consider the "larger picture."

I agree with this. It's just not reasonable or fair to expect people who are living at the poverty line or below not to be self-preservationist. I shopped at Wal-Mart in the mid-nineties when I was in my early twenties and living in Toronto on $600 a month, and if I were ever that poor again I'd do it again. But I don't do it now. It is the middle class and higher that I expect to not shop there. I know people with household incomes of +100K who shop there, and it really pisses me off. They've got enough money to take two family vacations a year, but they can't afford to pay a little more for toilet paper and cleansers and magazines and the like in order to support better businesses and better jobs for workers?

It helps, that besides being an asshole corporation, Wal-Mart is such an awful place to shop. It's always crammed with people, most of whom seem to spend half their shopping time screaming at their kids, and their stock is mostly cheap crap. If you are really concerned with your household budget, you're better off shopping in thrift shops and on Craig's List and the like.
posted by orange swan at 8:34 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder if getting a prescription for Marinol (Synthetic Cannabinoid) would be a way around this problem. This prescription should comply with both state and federal laws. The only question is whether Marinol can be distinguished from marijuana on a drug test. Anyone know?

Marinol and marijuana used to be indistinguishable, but some newer tests can tell the difference.

Besides, if a medical marijuana card wasn't enough, I doubt a prescription for Marinol would have been -- Wal*Mart was clearly not interested in applying common sense to this firing.
posted by vorfeed at 9:59 AM on March 19, 2010


It's worth noting that WalMart gets C-grade product. Purchasing electronics and mechanical crap at WalMart can be a false economy, because chances are it'll break down and have to be replaced earlier than if you spent a few more bucks to purchase from a reputable retailer.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


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