Wednesday, February 09, 2011

One Consequence of Being an “At Will” / “Right to Work” State

Workers have little to no rights. Take this story as case in point.

From the story –
Despite declared states of emergency, employers legally can penalize, or even fire, workers for absences during storms.

“It might not be the best public relations, but there's nothing illegal about it,” said Nathan Whatley, an employment law attorney with McAfee and Taft law firm in Oklahoma City.

It's fairly common, Whatley said, for companies with entry-level jobs or high turnover to have strict “no-fault” attendance policies.

“They don't want to hear about it (reasons for absences) or don't care why,” he said, “especially at call centers where everyone being there is their entire business.”

Whatley's comments came after a worker with a metro-area call center e-mailed on Monday, complaining that she'd been “written up” for work days she missed last week due to the storm.

The employee, who wanted to remain nameless for fear of retribution, said she worked for an hour clearing her driveway Wednesday only to get stuck on her private road in northeast Oklahoma County.

The worker called her absence into the office Wednesday and again on Thursday. But when she made it in Sunday — her next scheduled work day — she had a message on her computer that she had two points against her record. Workers face termination after 12, she said.

Thankfully, she has numerous points to go, but still is unhappy.

“My biggest complaint is that this huge corporation started writing up employees who could not make it into work,” she told The Oklahoman via a telephone call Monday. “I think it's terrible the way they're doing people. You would think they would take the conditions into consideration.

“Several of us are so upset,” she said. “It makes us feel like they don't care about us.”

That last quote is the kicker. When companies have policies like this and penalize someone for missing work because his/her car is literally stuck in the snow, then the message that they are sending is crystal clear – we don’t care about you. They will explain it off as something else and rationalize it away but at the end of the day this is a perfect example of corporations not giving a rat’s ass about those who work for them and make them money. (Note – To be completely fair to the individual members of management at various companies, many times they do anything that they can for their employees but their hands are tied by policies written by folks higher up the food chain that have never talked to an entry-level worker, let alone a customer.)

Obviously there needs to be attendance policies in place, and often they need to be strict, because, let’s be honest, if there weren’t people would never come in to work. The work ethic in our society is pretty pathetic. People take constant advantage of any loophole or way to get around something or not take responsibility for their actions, but I do have to wonder how much of that is a reaction to the amount of disrespect shown to workers by these companies. It’s hard to want to give a company your all when you know that they only see you as a number and would soon as fire you as look at you.

So what is a worker to do? If there is something in a workplace that someone thinks should be changed or investigated, what can he/she do about it? Sadly, not much other than look for another job. For one thing, the market is clearly on the side of the employer. With high unemployment rates, employers pretty much have pick of the little. They also know that for every person in their employ, there are dozens, if not hundreds, ready, willing, and able to replace anyone at any time. So why in the world would a company sweat any employee? There’s no need, right? Well that’s the impression that they are sending to their workers, even if it is not intentional.

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