Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hump Day

Well, we're officially on the downside to the weekend! Not that we do anything so terribly exciting on the weekends, but its still fun. And we don't have to be at work. Not that I don't love my job, but well, it's fun to not work. Somtimes. Not that I hate work but . . . . you know what I mean! heh

There's just something so absolutely delicious about weekends. Like you can just get up and go take a nap whenever you want to! They tend to frown on that at work. All of a sudden you wake up, and you're sitting in your office chair out in the parking lot next to your car? That's not a good thing. Really. It is not a good sign, especially if there's a box on your lap filled with all your crap. And a paycheck sticking out of the top marked "Final."

So one of the blogs I follow "Jason. For the Love of God" has been having a very interesting discussion on issues at work. (Click on the link to the right.) She has been posting about a situation at her husband's work, and the overwhelming majority of the people posting thought the situation was being handled "ridiculously" by the higher-ups in the company.

What happened to Chick's husband Jason, was that Chick and her two kids went to Jason's work for a couple of hours one day to help stuff envelopes, because they don't have the budget for temporary help. Another time, apparently Chick and her kids came by work at the end of the day for some Christmas deocrating or somesuch. Well, apparently a CSR or receptionist or whatever she is got upset when Jason, who is her boss, brought in his kids to the office. She said that she now wants to bring in her 6-month-old to the office, because Jason got to bring in his kids and she made a big stink.

Believe it or not, this is not a ridiculous or unreasonable request.

Now, you and I both know that this woman is being ridiculous and unreasonable -- in a NORMAL situation. This is not a NORMAL situation. This is a workplace, and work has to be fair to EVERYONE, no matter what. In this case, no doubt what will happen is the development of a policy that states no kids at work. Which is a loss of some valuable volunteer help and some valuable lessons in altruism for Chick's kids. This also proves the rule that the few ruin it for the many. There is absolutely no reason for this woman to make a fuss about bringing her baby to work because Jason brought his kids. It is because of people like this that we have to have all-or-nothing policies. Geesh.

Everyone kept commenting that this woman was crazy, and a fruitcake, and insane, all that. And I say she IS crazy -- crazy like a fox, that is! This woman saw a golden opportunity. By complaining about her boss bringing his kids to the office, and demanding equal treatment by being allowed to bring her kids, Jason's boss said that Jason had to stop bringing his kids to work because it wasn't fair that she couldn't bring her infant. It's apples and oranges, and all reasonable people know this is ridiculous, but in the world of today's litigious workforce, she just wrote her own ticket. In addition, Jason, who is the innocent party here, will now have to watch his every move -- he should never be alone with her -- ever. He needs to watch how he talks to her (tone of voice, etc.) and he's going to have to document every single incident. Why? You ask. Why, for the love of Pete, does he have to do this, when he didn't do anything wrong?!? Because he's her boss. And she "won" the agrument about bringing kids to the office, and Jason got "in trouble" with his boss. And now anything -- and I mean ANYthing -- that Jason does that could even remotely be perceived as a negative employment action will result in her filing a grievance against him for retaliation. She's teflon coated now, because even with documentation of poor performance, she can make a case for retaliation. And the courts favor the employee in these situations. This is just SO wrong!!

What a loser this woman is. And yes it's wrong. But there is really no other decision the company could make. And now Jason is going to have to bear the burden of maintaining his innocence. There is no such thing as "innocent until proven guilty" in the employment law world. The employer bears the burden of proof that the big, bad Company DIDN'T do this thing to this poor little ol' picked on employee. She is truly in the cat-bird seat. And you know she didn't really want to bring her infant to work; she saw an opportunity and wanted to ensure that it would be extremely difficult to ever get rid of her, no matter how badly she behaves. Generally, D&O insurance will settle out of court rather than take a chance of going to court, no matter how strong the case is. It's cheaper to throw #25,000 or so at at the employee to shut them up and make it go away, rather than spend twice or three times that on a court case. And if they get a sympathetic jury (like made up of a bunch of single parents) they she could get millions.

And that's just wrong! But it is indeed reality. And that's what's broken about employment law and the courts. What's interesting to me was seeing that other companies have the same problem that we do; that when HR makes a decision that seems totally ridiculous, it brings out slings and arrows from others around them. People. Don't. Understand. The. Bigger. Picture. There are laws, and laws, and more laws. And there are lots of litigious employees out there. And the lesson here? Is that please be kind to your HR person. There are lots of elements to any decision they make, and it is because of these litigious employees, that they have to make ridiculous decisions about ridiculous things. So hug an HR person today -- they need it!! And be slow to judge -- you really don't have all the information.

That's my Wednesday Rant of the Week. Hope everyone has a great Thursday!