Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The worst television show ever? FOX to air corporate layoffs


From the network that brought us reality TV gems such as The Littlest Groom, Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire, and My Big, Fat, Obnoxious Fiance comes the next awful idea to grace our airwaves: Someone’s Gotta Go. If you’ve yet to hear about this atrocity, here’s the premise of this in production FOX show, courtesy of Juju Chang and Kelly Hagan at ABCnews.com:

The show will highlight a small business that needs to downsize because of the economy, but instead of the bosses deciding who gets the axe, co-workers must choose who among them has to go. Workers will have to defend themselves, justifying their work habits, all leading to a group discussion to determine who gets dumped.

To help make their decision, employees will have access to each others' usually private records including budgets, human resources files and salaries.

This show is just plain wrong. First, the set-up has myriad legal risks for the employer. Having co-workers instead of management make the decision will not insulate the employer from potential liability. Risks abound for coworker harassment, coworker retaliation, or discrimination courtesy of the cat’s paw. Moreover, the inevitable release that employees will have to sign to appear on the show might insulate the producers from liability, but likely will not protect the employers. (As a side-note, I wonder if the show runners are indemnifying participating employers from any lawsuits that result from the layoffs).

More fundamentally, however, I question the corporate integrity of any company that would agree to take part in this freak show. Except in the most egregious of cases, terminating an employee is the worst thing an employer has to do. Why turn this into public humiliation? Maybe the winner in all of this is the laid-off employee, cast free from a company callous enough to televise his or her termination to millions.

[Hat tip: The Business of Management and Overlawyered]


Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.

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