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Help! What should I do when the owner undercuts our new leave policy?

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in Human Resources,People Management,The HR Specialist Forum

Two of our employees—a married couple—for years have requested extra unpaid time off for vacations. The husband works for me, the wife works for the company owner. We recently notified all employees that we would no longer grant any additional time off. I’ve made it clear to the husband that he won’t get any additional time off. The owner, on the other hand, sees no problem with giving both of them unpaid leave this year, even while other employees have to live with the new rule. How should I handle this?—J.L., Wisc.



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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

David October 30, 2009 at 12:23 am

Seems like a no-brainer unless there is more to the problem than you say: The owner should be warned that it is dangerous to single out one couple for special treatment. And as a good subordinate, you need to tell him that.

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HR Wiz October 29, 2009 at 10:44 am

I wouldn’t be too concerned about it. The owner is the boss and can grant leave as he wishes. Also, they are getting unpaid leave; because of this I wouldn’t be worried about an influx in such requests. People still have bills to pay.

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mog October 27, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Print a copy of New York Law Journal’s article in Technology Today, Bosses Who ‘Friend’ Are Asking to Be Sued, Lawyers Say, By Tresa Baldas; October 27, 2009, and give it to the “boss.” Although the article notes that the “boss/friend” is more an online issue, due to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it also reflects that employer litigation is increasing as a result of disparate treatment or favoritism. Employers are crossing lines between the employer/employee relationship and it is now becoming a fact of law.

Advise the employer, as calmly as possible, that employer employment law, and wage and hour litigation has increased, according to statics, 40 percent in the past year. As employers downsize in a trouble economy, and employees must take on the responsibility of three plus individuals, the fact that an employer plays favorites, can turn the most loyal of employees, completely hostile.

Disgruntled employees are not going to comment that the employer is just trying to be a nice to Jack or Joan, when they have to pick up the slack for absentee employees, especially as they are never afforded the same disparate opportunity. They will cry foul, and the courts are using a very sensitive olfactory to inhale the stench that results from the disparate treatment.

In addition, employees who are termed due to a trouble economy are becoming far more proactive in defending their rights due to what they consider to be a wrongful termination. “Sure the boss let me go when it is clear that he was playing favorites with Jack or Joan. It is clear I am more experienced but they keep their jobs.” Too many employers are appalled to find themselves in the middle of massive litigation and can’t understand how they got there, especially when it was their own disparate treatment that created the problem.

Employers still perceive themselves in an age, when “it’s my business”, (office, department, etc.), “I will do what I want,” and “employees are to put up and shut up if they work for me.” Employees are shutting up and putting up until go to the EEOC to issue a complaint. Employers now need to understand they are the ones no longer in Kansas.

The best rule is what is good for one, is good for the other.

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JWG October 14, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I can relate to your situation, as something very similar happened with me. The concerns are multiple: unfair practices which could lead to discrimination depending on the remaining population in your workforce / disparate impact, lower morale with an unquestionable impact on production in the workforce, resentment towards the owner and the employee who is allowed to take additional time off.

Growing tired of everyone going to the owner is the least of concerns; there are serious adverse consequences. I suggest that you share your concerns from a monetary / business / reputation perspective. If nothing else, the owner will have a better understanding of the adverse consequences and you will have advocated on behalf of the company, the law, and the employees without compromising your relationship with the owner and maintaining the integrity of the HR profession. What worked for me is when I began sharing the liability / risks in the owner’s “over riding decisions”.

Not to mention the company’s reputation. Our employees are our walking advertisers and it takes no time at all for them to share with others what practices are allowed.

Wishing you success on this challenging one.

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ASmith October 13, 2009 at 2:59 pm

As annoying as it can be when trying to keep things under control and keep employee grumbling about things being unfair to a minimum, the owner ultimately has the veto power over things and can make as many exceptions as he wants to.

Eventually, he may tire of everyone coming to him for exceptions and will adhere to policy in the future.

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