Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Employer Bill of Rights

The Employer Bill of Rights is now available as a book. It is a practical handbook designed to help business owners, managers, supervisors, and human resources professionals navigate the ever-changing maze of labor and employment laws, rules, and regulations.

You can purchase your copy in a variety of formats:

According to Liz Ryan, writing at Businessweek.com. “Actual employee rights in the U.S. are fairly limited.” She posits that because “it’s legal to make hiring and termination decisions for random (nondiscriminatory) reasons” (such as an employee’s favorite sports team), employees need a “Bill of Rights” to protect themselves.

After nearly 15 years representing employers in workplace disputes, the one conclusion that I can reach with absolute certainty is that American employees do not lack workplace rights. There is a veritable alphabet soup of laws that protects employees:

  • Title VII: race, color, religion, sex, and national origin
  • PDA: pregnancy
  • ADEA: age
  • ADA and ADAAA: disability
  • GINA: genetic information
  • USERRA: returning veterans
  • FMLA: family leave
  • FLSA: minimum wage, overtime, and child labor
  • ERISA: benefits
  • COBRA: continuing health coverage
  • OSHA: safety
  • NLRA: labor
  • FCRA: background checks
  • WARN: plant closings

The only group in the country that lacks workplace rights is employers. We are the marginalized and the unprotected, living in fear of making any personnel decisions because they might result in expensive lawsuits. Employers, I feel your pain, and present the Employer Bill of Rights:

  1. The Right to Hire on Qualifications: We want to be able to hire a white male under the age of 40 without fear of a lawsuit from every protected class we did not hire.
  2. The Right to Fire on Performance: We also want the right to fire without the fear of an expensive lawsuit when you fail to perform. Every performance review is not an attempt to push you out the door. Believe it or not, every employee we hire represents an investment by us. We want that investment to bear a substantial return. Criticism is meant be a constructive attempt to help you improve, not a destructive set-up for you to fail.
  3. The Right to Control Operations: We know how many people we need to employ, how many shifts we need to run, and how many facilities we need to operate. Most importantly, we know what can afford to remain profitable. If we have to shutter or relocate a plant, lay people off, or furlough hours, it’s not because we are discriminating against you; it’s because it’s necessary for us to remain open and able to employ anyone at all.
  4. The Right for You to Follow Our Work Rules: We do not distribute handbooks and other policies because we like destroying trees. We do so because we think every relationship needs to be guided by a set of expectations under which each side is supposed to operate. All we ask is that you live up to your end of the bargain and accept the consequences if you don’t.
  5. The Right to Be Told When There Is a Problem: We cannot fix workplace problems if the first we hear about them is when a lawsuit is served. Help us help you by letting us know if you think you’re being discriminated against, retaliated against, paid incorrectly, or otherwise being treated unfairly. If you’re right, we’ll fix it. Right or wrong, we won’t hold it against you.
  6. The Right to Receive an Honest Day’s Work: When you are at work, we ask that you reasonably dedicate yourself to the tasks at hand. It’s only fair; after all, we are paying you for your services.
  7. The Right to Have Our Say Before You Form a Union: We recognize your right as employees to form a union if that’s the collective choice of your majority. Just hear us out and let us have our say on why it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and may not be in your best interest.
  8. The Right to Reasonable Notice: We understand that certain laws (the ADA and the FMLA, for example) provide employees rights to certain accommodations, which we follow. In return, we merely ask that when possible, you not wait until the last minute to request an accommodation or a leave of absence. It wreaks havoc with our scheduling and operations.
  9. The Right to Be Treated With Respect: Businesses need respect too. We expect that you will demonstrate that respect to us and your fellow employees by showing up on time, not passing off to others that which you can (and should) do yourself, not waiting until the last minute to schedule your vacation, and generally treating others as you would want to be treated.
  10. The Right to Confidentiality: We expect you will not share internal workplace issues with the outside world, whether they are our trade secrets or other proprietary information, or the day-to-day goings-on inside our company.