- Associated Press - Sunday, March 27, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that found a Jimmy John’s franchisee violated the rights of six workers who were fired after they displayed posters in protest of the company’s sick leave policy.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling Friday, affirming a 2014 finding by the National Labor Relations Board that said the franchisee engaged in unfair labor practices. That NLRB ruling supported one from 2012 that said the workers should get their jobs back and back pay.

MikLin Enterprises, which owns 10 Jimmy John’s franchises, did not immediately return a message left at its office Sunday by The Associated Press. The company had asked the appeals court to review the NLRB’s order, while the NRLB asked the court to enforce it.

Workers were happy with the outcome but said the ruling took too long.

“We were fired more than five years ago, illegally, for warning the public that our lack of paid sick days meant that they could end up eating sandwiches tainted by germs,” Max Specktor, one of the employees, said in a statement to the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1LS2cEY ). “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The workers are aligned with the Industrial Workers of the World, which tried to organize MikLin’s restaurants in 2010. Employees rejected the union, but some pro-union workers continued to highlight their lack of paid sick leave. In 2011, they displayed posters that showed two Jimmy John’s sandwiches - one was described as being made by a healthy worker and the other by a sick worker.

The poster read: “Can’t tell the difference? That’s too bad, because Jimmy John’s workers don’t get paid sick days.”

MikLin fired six workers and warned three others. The company argued the posters were “disloyal” and not protected speech.

On Friday, the court majority wrote: “There was substantial evidence in the record tying the effort to obtain paid sick leave with the effect that the lack of paid sick leave could have on MikLin’s product.”

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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