(CN) – The Tampa Tribune was justified in firing an employee for his profane remarks about the company vice president, the 4th Circuit ruled.
Gregg McMillen, a pressman, sued the newspaper under the National Labor Relations Act. He claimed his actions were protected, due to his union’s collective bargaining negotiations with the paper.
McMillen told his foreman and assistant foreman one day that he was stressed out by the latest letter from company vice president Bill Barker, who had written a series of missives about the negotiation process.
McMillen said, “I hope that f—ing idiot doesn’t send me another letter.”
The foremen informed management of McMillen’s comment, and he was fired.
An administrative law judge ruled that McMillen’s remark was so profane it was not protected by the Act, but the National Labor Relations Board reversed, ruling that the newspaper violated the Act by firing McMillen.
Judge Duncan of the Richmond, Va.-based federal appeals court disagreed.
“The Board overreached as a matter of law in finding the conduct in question was not so egregious as to forfeit the protection of the Act,” Duncan wrote, noting that McMillen’s comment was not “physically or temporally connected” to the labor negotiations.
“It is also of particular significance,” the judge added, “that McMillan made his derogatory remark in response to a series of lawful letters sent by his employer.”