“Bridesmaids” and Employment Law – Yes, I’ve managed to find a link between the two.
Employment law is all around us. So much so, examples of it can even be found in the movie ”Bridesmaids ”. Last week, I went to happy hour with my wife and some of her female co-workers/friends. During the conversation, it came up that I was taking her to ”Bridesmaids” on her birthday. As soon as her friends heard this they said, “We want a report back from you on the male perspective of the movie.” My response: “Sure, I’ll blog about it and send it to you.”
In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, when I watched the movie I thought of various employment laws that arose so I could combine those examples into my review about the movie. The final product resulted in what you’ll read below. My article essentially consists of the various employment laws that were called into question during the movie and of course my review of the film. Oh, and don’t worry, I won’t reveal anything that spoils the ending.
The employment law issues I picked out of the movie were 1) payment for travel time and 2) the at-will employee relationship.
Payment for Travel Time
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the bride to be, Lillian, lives in Milwaukee, but commutes to Chicago for work. The first issue I spotted here was whether she is entitled to compensation by her employer for time that she travels. The answer is, probably not. Compensation for travel time only arises in the context of non-exempt employees. A non-exempt employee is a person who is (i) not paid on a salary basis, and/or (ii) not employed in an executive, administrative, professional or outside sales capacity. I don’t know what Lillian did for a living, but if it required her to drive back and forth from Chicago, I assume she probably fell into the professional or outside sales capacity. Now if she was a non-exempt employee, then the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), Portal to Portal Act and/or Department of Labor Regulations would apply and she might be entitled to some form of compensation. If you want to learn more about these laws/regulations in this context, feel free to review the following article by clicking here.
The next employment law issue that arose addressed the ever popular at-will employee relationship. In the movie, the maid of honor, Annie, is terminated on the spot after calling a customer a vulgar word (I’ll exclude the word for professional reasons). Of course, the issue I identified from this, putting aside the comment, was the question of “Could Annie just be fired on the spot?”
Now if Annie was in Washington State, the answer to this question would likely be “yes” so long as she is an at-will employee. Employees in Washington are generally at-will, meaning they can quit or be fired at anytime. Gardner v. Loomis Armored Inc., 128 Wash.2d 931. In contrast to employment at-will, some employees are given greater protection from termination. This type of employment is commonly referred to as “just cause employment”. This higher protection typically arises if the employee has an employment contract with the employer or is working under a collective bargaining agreement which states that the employee can only be terminated for “cause”. Now the term “cause” can vary, but if you are the employee it’s best to have the definition of “cause” be as narrow as possible. Conversely, if you are the employer, you want the definition of “cause” to be as broad as possible.
Now that we know all this, let’s turn back to Annie. Chances are she was an at-will employee because she likely didn’t have an employment contract and I doubt she was employed under a collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, her termination was permitted. In addition, even if she was a “just cause employee”, I’m sure calling a customer a vulgar name would fall under any definition of the term “cause”, particularly the word she used. Sorry to say this Annie, but your employer’s actions were legal.
Okay, now that the boring stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about the movie itself. From a guys’ perspective, I thought it was great. Despite the fact that it was hard for me to relate to the challenges of a bridesmaid, I had a good time watching Kristen Wiig and the other actresses deal with the pressures and responsibilities of it. Kristen Wiig is hilarious and also co-wrote the script. If you like her on Saturday Night Live, you’ll certainly enjoy her performance. I think the best part was her reaction on the airplane after mixing medication and scotch. Calling “Steve” “Stove” was pretty classic. In sum, I thought it was a fantastic movie. If you are a guy and your wife / girlfriend / partner is asking you to see it, go! You’ll not only score points with him or her, but also have an enjoyable time and have some good laughs.