I’m 42 years young. If I try to sleep on the floor, I won’t get any shut eye and I’ll be really crabby the next day, like really, really crabby. No one wants that. I don’t think I’m alone in this. So, why do we always revert to the floor when it comes to how we treat people?
I’m talking about the law. The law is a floor. It is the baseline of what employees can expect in our workplace — that we, your employer, will not break the law. We will pay minimum wage, we will pay overtime, and we will not discriminate or harass. This is the least we can do.
We can do way more. Take, for example, wages. We pay 98% of our people way more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. We do this because very few would do the work we need at that wage, the market demands higher wages, and we want our people to house and feed their families in addition to paying off their student loans, wearing clothes, and getting to and from work (when we could safely go to an office). We don’t do the bare minimum.
Another example is safety. The law says we have to provide a physically safe work environment for our people. We can’t have open hazards, dangerous chemicals, or live wires just strewn about without facing hefty legal fines and significantly increased workers’ compensation premiums. So, instead, we are careful. We put signs up, we provide personal protective equipment even above what the law requires because our people not only provide a value to us as a resource, but we care about them.
This is why it is always disheartening to find an employer who does just the minimum in how people are treated. Take for example an employer who doesn’t fire someone for using the most recognizable racial slur because it was his first time. There are hundreds of court cases out there that would support this. Someone can say the n-word once lawfully in many jurisdictions, but is that really the message we want to be sending our employees? I don’t think so.
Or try, the employer who seeks a separation agreement for the woman who complained of harassment instead of parting ways with the harasser because the separation agreement will presumably stop any claim and harasser is so important to the employer that he’s “untouchable.” The employer then hires an executive coach for the harasser, giving him a perk rather than discipline that could truly change his behavior and make the work environment safe for everyone.
It’s time we got off the floor. Yes, there are some provisions of the law that are more challenging to anticipate and comply with given financial constraints — the Families First Coronavirus Response Act being one of them — however, we as Human Resources professionals must start aspiring to foster the kind of workplace we dream of working in instead of one where our bodies ache.