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The Pei Wei 12: Fired for Protesting SB 1070?

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 26, 2010 5:17 PM

Twelve employees of the Pei Wei Asian Diner say they were fired for attending a rally protesting Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB 1070. The employees missed shifts to attend the rally and that is the reason they were dismissed, say representatives for the restaurant. However, the employees say others who missed shifts were punished, not fired. Now, the protests have shift to the restaurant itself.

Some of the twelve out of the thirty employees of the Chandler, Arizona Pei Wei restaurant asked for the day off, but were denied, reports MyFOXPhoenix. One of the employees who was dismissed for missing work to attend the rally against SB 1070 was Yvonne Herrera. Herrera says she has worked as a cook at the Pei Wei restaurant for ten years without taking a single sick day.

Representatives of Pei Wei restaurant released a statement explaining their position, according to FOX. "We were disappointed that 12 employees from our Chandler location chose to violate a well-known attendance policy resulting in their termination. When employees chose not to show up for a scheduled shift and chose not to give notice, it causes tremendous disruption to fellow coworkers and impedes our ability to serve our guests."

There are specific instances under the law that limit when employers can discharge employees. Employees without an employment contract are usually "at-will" employees, meaning an employer need not give a specific reason for terminating their employment. However, some reasons for termination of even at-will employees are illegal; such as dismissal for age, race, or religion. Dismissal for participation in a union or for political activity can also be considered an illegal dismissal. 

The restaurant contends that the Pei Wei 12 were fired for missing work, which is a legal basis for dismissal. However, the employees counter that others who previously missed work were merely disciplined, not fired. This may lend weight to their claims they were dismissed more for what they did, than when they did it.

The dismissed employees would like their positions back and an apology from the restaurant, FOX reports. Although not union members, a local union is assisting them.

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