I found myself asking again why we have employment laws if following them is optional. Once again I have discovered a company that has decided that wage and hour laws among others are optional; and if you complain about it you will be terminated. The company gets away with breaking the law and there are no consequences for the law breaker.
If you are a Non-Exempt, hourly employee, California law is quite specific about meal breaks, and when you are unable to take that break the company owes the employee a meal penalty. If as a company you require employees to use a cell phone to communicate, and do not provide a company phone you are required to compensate a portion of the personal cell phone cost. If you require employees to use their personal car to transport products you compensate for mileage. And if you have employees out of the facility, but still conducting business, they remain on the time clock. You never have them clock out, so “in case they are in a car accident you don’t have to pay workers compensation.”
But in one Southern California business this is just the first few items on a very long list. But wait, I forgot to mention that this workplace is one of 15 owned as a franchise of a national chain. Although these issues are prohibited in the employee manual of the national chain, this franchise owner feels he doesn’t need to comply. In fact, he has taken the national chain’s employee manual, and removed the pages that he doesn’t want to comply with, and the remaining pages have become the only rules that need to be followed.
So when one of his managers decided to press the issues, they were warned that they would be fired. So this manager went to the national chain’s corporate human resources director and lodged a formal complaint. Two days later the manager is terminated by the franchise owner and there is nothing that can be done about it. The national chain’s HR is unable to do anything.
So I ask again, why do we have employment laws? We have them to force compliance of companies that fail to follow the laws all by themselves. This is also why employment law attorneys have such robust practices with multi-million dollar judgements.
This one franchise has over 150 employees, all hourly and all being treated against the will of the national chain, and the rule of law. Any attorney that wouldn’t launch multiple cases or a class action would be missing a very large payday. This particular chain has locations all across the country, and if they allow this one franchise owner to get away with this, then they are probably allowing it in all of their locations. In addition to lawsuits, which always catch the eye of the state and federal regulatory authorities, these same agencies will start their own investigations and levy mind blowing penalties to send a message.
Now once all this becomes news worthy, stock prices drop, and it is difficult to attract customers and new employees. Everything falls apart because a single franchise owner doesn’t feel he needs to follow the law.
Why do we have employment laws? Because they protect the employee from harm, and if they are followed, they protect the company too!