Category Archives: Ethics

My Christmas Wishes for Employers

It is that time of year when we are singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas”. As an employment lawyer with 30 years of experience, I have some idea of what you as a business owner or manager are wishing this Christmas.

I know you work hard as a supervisor. Managing people every day isn’t an easy job, particularly if your employees do not have a willing attitude to try to be a good employee.

I hear from employers every day about the frustrations that you face as an employer. The average person who supervises employees spends at least 20% of her time just dealing with employee mistakes, complaints, emotions, negligence, etc., on top of trying to do all of her regular work.

So, for this Christmas, I have made a list of what I wish for you as a supervisor in terms of employees.

  • Employees who realize that the purpose of a business is to make a profit, and that requires that the employee actually be present to perform the work assigned. I recently had a matter involving an employee who was tardy repeatedly for things like a flat tire, a loose dog and “I forgot to set my alarm”, so that client meetings had to be cancelled and business was lost. I wish for you as a supervisor the employment of people who realize that these little issues chip away at a business’s profitability. Even a small company should provide a generous amount of vacation time, sick leave and holiday pay. But once an employee has used up his allotted paid time off, he needs to think seriously about getting back to work and being productive for you or the business may not be there to provide his paid vacation the next year.
  • Employees who can be trusted with the success of your business, as well as the company’s time, money, and equipment. Every year I see a number of business owners in the Panhandle lose significant amounts of money to employee embezzlement, lose equipment to employee negligence and lose profitability to employee laziness. Granted, the employer needs to have reasonable checks and balances in place to try to prevent these losses. But wouldn’t it be nice if all of your employees were the kind of people who had enough integrity to forego theft, enough caution to treat your property as theirs, and enough loyalty to go above and beyond the bare minimum effort.
  • Sober employees. Most business now drug-test when an employee is hired. This has resulted in a drop nationwide in pre-hire positive drug tests. But I still see injuries and damage done by substance-abusing employees after they have worked for the business for a while. My wish is that you don’t have to deal with those issues. You can help make my wish come true by actually requiring the occasional random drug and alcohol testing in your workplace, as well as testing immediately after any personal injury or property damage occurs at work that might have been caused by an impaired employee.
  • Employees who exercise verbal discretion. Employees who gossip, spread rumors, complain, speculate and backstab in an effort to make themselves look better simply don’t realize that respect is given to those who keep their negativity and rumor-mongering to themselves. It would be great if Santa could bring each of your employees the gift of discretion this year. As someone wise said, “Discretion is the ability to raise your eyebrow instead of your voice.”
  • Employees who appreciate feedback and even criticism because it makes them better at their job. I have often thought that the clearest sign of maturity in an employee is his ability to accept constructive criticism, or even better, to ask for it. So, I wish for you employees who know that wisdom comes from humility and accountability. You deserve those employees who are not afraid to find out if they made a mistake and to ask you the best course to avoid such mistakes in the future.
  • Employees who take pride in their work regardless of who gets the credit. “My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” – Indira Ghandi. Enough said.

Such employees sound like a dream, like a Christmas wish, don’t they? But you probably know that the best way to cultivate such employees is to lead from the top down. You must be the type of leader whose character, work ethic, sobriety, discretion and integrity are unquestionable if that is the type employee you want to employ.

As I have said before in my blog posts: “You will get the employees you deserve if you are quick-tempered, unfair, dishonest, prejudiced, undependable, selfish or disloyal to your employees. Your values, good or bad, will set the standard for everyone you supervise.”



Employers Can Face Criminal Penalities

Ionia Management is a Greek company that manages a fleet of tanker vessels. The company was convicted of a crime and sentenced for its role in falsifying records to conceal the overboard dumping of waste oil from one of its vessels into international waters. The case is now on appeal to the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ionia Management says it was convicted based on the acts of rogue employees, who had been trained and repeatedly reminded of the company policy prohibiting the dumping but did it anyway. That leads us to the question of whether the company or its owners should face criminal fines and possibly jail for the acts of its subordinate employees. Or is civil liability in court more appropriate?

However you feel about criminal liability for corporate actions, in these post-Enron days, it is a fact of business. And as a employment lawyer, I feel compelled to point out a couple of the ways in which your employee relations can land you in criminal court. Continue reading Employers Can Face Criminal Penalities

How to be a Christian Employer

            I give legal advice to employers. That is my job. I can quote to you chapter and verse of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Family and Medical Leave Act.

But as my Christian faith has grown stronger, I often am asked to puzzle over chapters and verses of the Bible. I’m trying to understand how to incorporate my beliefs and those of some of clients into every manager’s legal obligations to not discriminate at work.

            It is easy for me to tell employers to never proselytize in the workplace because you might subject yourself to a religious discrimination or harassment claim.  But many Christians feel compelled to fulfill the Great Commission both inside and outside the workplace.

            So this column is my humble attempt to formulate more specific advice for my friends and clients that want to be able to both honor God and obey the anti-discrimination laws.

            If there is one piece of Christian advice I can give you, it is this: What do your employees see when they look at you, their boss? Do they see the fruits of the Holy Spirit –love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

If you profess to be a Christian, is that evident in your speech, your supervision, your ethics and your relationships?

            Or do your employees see you worship one idol at work – profit – while attending church and claiming to worship Jesus Christ during your off hours? Continue reading How to be a Christian Employer

Privacy in the Workplace

            “Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds”. – John Perry Barlow


            I never liked working. To me a job is an invasion of privacy.” – Danny McGoorty


            I often encounter people who still believe they have a constitutional right of privacy in this country. Privacy is not addressed in the constitution. And in my opinion, the Patriot Act and the current administration’s domestic wiretapping program has eroded much of whatever small measure of privacy the common law and the courts used to give us.

            Privacy is even scarcer in the American workplace. Private corporations, businesses, stores, sole proprietorships, and other nongovernmental employers can and do invade their employees’ privacy on a daily basis as part of the normal course of business.

Continue reading Privacy in the Workplace

Ethics in Employment

            Some employers call my law office to find out what they can get away with legally: what loopholes in the law can they exploit or how can they get rid of an employee without taking the usual steps of giving the employee an opportunity to cure their performance problems.

            I am much more impressed by the employers I advise regularly, almost all of whom are just trying to do the right thing by their employees while earning a decent living for themselves.

            If I didn’t have an ethical requirement to keep my clients’ identities confidential, I would love to brag on the local company that doesn’t fire a person for the first failed drug test, but instead holds their job open while the employee completes rehab and then offers the worker one more chance.

            Or I could tell you about several clients of mine who voluntarily supplement the workers’ compensation wages benefit when an employee is hurt on the job so that the employee gets 100% of his wages while recovering rather than just the 70% paid by the workers’ compensation insurance.

Continue reading Ethics in Employment