Before I go on to suggest what I think could make life better for employees and employers, I wanted to describe some of the behavior I have personally seen on the part of supervisors and bosses:
- Demand that hospitalized employees "get back to work"
- Insist that contagiously sick employees come to work and infect everyone else
- Keep "secret" files on employees that they aren't permitted to see (but threaten them with what's in those files constantly! "I'm documenting this!")
- Pit employees against each other, creating animosity
- Use abusive language toward employees, including obscenities
- Throw items at employees, from small items like paperclips to large ones like chairs
- Demand that they work overtime, then scream at them because payroll's high
- Intimidate workers into working in unsafe conditions
- Intimidate subsequently injured employees into not reporting the injuries, or belittle them for their injuries and tell them to man up and get back to work
- Comment, ridicule, and lecture employees on personal, private matters such as their dietary habits, weight, religion, hobbies, health (I have had several employers tell me what medications/herbal supplements I should be taking, becoming angry when I didn't take their suggestions, or when I DID and didn't get better)
- Allow favored employees to break rules without consequence
- Allow or encourage favorites to physically or verbally bully other employees
- Allow favorites to work while intoxicated and even operate heavy machinery such as forklifts and manufacturing equipment
- Sexually harass employees
- Hire friends and family and don't hold them to the same standards/rules as others
- Be intolerant of disabled employees, even when their disability was disclosed in the hiring process
- Use racist language, including the N word (that's a story I will be telling soon, promise)
Yes, a lot of these behaviors are illegal. The processes for making a complaint or getting justice are often so complex or expensive as to be inaccessible to many aggrieved workers. Officials, especially elected ones, often have a financial or political incentive to side with the employer.
Think about it. How often do you hear of friends or family encountering an illegal behavior from a supervisor or boss--or how many times have you encountered them personally? How often do they pursue legal action? If they do figure out the channels for making a proper complaint, or hire a lawyer, how many times have you heard of someone winning a case or getting positive results?
The only times I've actually heard of positive outcomes in these situations have been when unions are involved. My father, a postal worker, taught me that bad managers in the USPS get a visit from union representatives if they are treating employees in illegal ways. But, for the most part, the rest of the employers in the US seem to have a great deal of freedom to physically, psychologically, and financially destroy their workers, with repercussions being rare in proportion to the number of offenses.
What have you seen? What has happened to YOU? I want to hear about it.