It’s time we take a brief respite from the herky jerky everyday world of workers’ compensation, and look at some other employment related stories that remind us how ridiculous the world in which we live, work and breathe is becoming. Actually, one of the tales we will review does relate to a death on the job – sort of. It was more of a faux job. At least it rhymed with faux job. I’ll get back to that momentarily.
First out of the gate: Last week I learned of a police officer in California who has filed a lawsuit because he was not paid for one 30-minute lunch break. That was one (count them, “1”) 30 minute, or 1,800 second (depending on your personal preference), lunch break.
The off duty LAPD officer worked security for the HBO show “VEEP” on a single day in December 2015. According to his lawsuit, he was paid a “base wage of $53.22 an hour, plus a $75 car allowance. He also received time-and-a-half for working more than eight hours, and double time for working past 12 hours.” He alleges in his suit that he was not paid for a 30-minute meal break, even though no meal break was actually taken.
Really? He didn’t take a break, but expects to be paid an additional 30 minutes for it? And this is worthy of a lawsuit?
Now before all the HR types out there go off on me, I am aware of federal regulations regarding break times and shift work. I do not know California’s specific requirements, but I’ll just take the federal standard and multiply by 3. That should do it. I just think a lawsuit over this type of “one off” infraction is ridiculous. Clearly someone is looking for any “opportunity to cash in on any opportunity”.
The suit did not actually say that the officer did not eat. For all we know there were ample donuts provided onsite; he merely did not take, nor was he paid for, a 30-minute lunch break. He is asking for “unspecified attorneys’ fees and costs as well as civil penalties for the labor code violations.”
Our second lawsuit comes to us from the city of Detroit, where a Muslim flight attendant has sued her airline employer for suspending her from her job. The reason for her suspension? She refused to serve passengers alcohol. It is against her religious tenets.
This might surprise you, but I have a question or two. Was she not aware that serving alcohol was part of the job when she applied? Did it come up in orientation? And why do we have “rights” to jobs that our religion will not allow us to do? Could a Muslim or evangelical Christian have a right to a job as a bartender even though they refuse to handle or serve alcohol? Does the state prison executioner have a right to their job when they refuse to kill on moral grounds?
I’m not being critical of the Muslim or any faith here; I simply believe that certain holding certain beliefs should probably equate to skipping specific jobs not suited for our individual standards. Why is this constantly becoming the problem of the employer, consumer and co-workers?
People, people, where oh where is the common sense amongst us??
And finally, the lawsuit you’ve all been waiting for. In a story sure to tickle your pickle, the family of a New Mexico woman who choked to death in a corn dog-eating contest designed to simulate an oral sex act has sued the facility that held the event. In the contest, women knelt in front of men who were holding the corn dogs in what is described as their "groin area." The woman who ate the dog in the quickest order, won.
It was a Faux Blowjob contest, people.
The woman who could “down the dog” (so to speak) the fastest won a prize. The 56-year-old contestant in question was apparently heavily inebriated, and according to the suit had consumed “three double shots and four double gin & tonics”. Her blood alcohol content was between .127 and .138, which in many states is enough to be considered highly flammable. Frankly I’m impressed she even found the corn dog after all those drinks.
But she apparently wasn’t going down without a fight. She allegedly choked on her corn dog, and tragically died two days later. There was no mention if she won a prize.
In the suit her husband, daughter, and mother claim that eating competitions should be monitored by medical personnel to prevent tragedies such as this. None was available that night. They are seeking punitive damages for wrongful death, dram shop liability, premises liability, negligence and loss of consortium.
I often get in trouble when I write about stories like this. There are people who will be angry that I discussed this woman’s actions, and label me a misogynist for highlighting and potentially mocking her actions. They will be perversely angrier at me for talking about the contest than they will be at the demeaning contest itself. I also recognize that some people will be upset at the clever wordplay I have employed in the description of this incident. I have, for entertainment purposes, sprinkled in numerous veiled references to phrases that relate to oral sex. Don’t let that distract you from the message. Please remember that this is really all about choices and individual responsibility, and not the cunning linguist.
This was a tragic and terrible loss, of that I have no doubt, but yet again, the phrase “personal responsibility” seems nowhere to be found here. A man has lost a wife, a mother has lost a daughter, and somewhere out there a daughter will forever know her mother choked on a corn dog while pretending to have oral sex with a dude in a bar. Perhaps the woman’s family is right. The bar that held the contest may be completely responsible for her actions. Perhaps they should have had a paramedic standing by.
I just hope that the incident wouldn’t interrupt their 30-minute lunch break, or that administering assistance wouldn’t be against their religious tenets. That would be a ridiculous mess, indeed.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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