Thursday, December 03, 2009

Great: Now I Might Have To Abandon Amazon

Amazon is being sued over labor practices. Thing is: this is something basically every company I've ever worked for has done/gotten away with. Well, at least every non-union job I've had (which is all but one).

So many employers more or less require you to be in before your shift starts. If you clock in right on time, you're effectively judged as being late. While law prevents employers in most states for penalizing you for being just on time or less than five minutes late, it is well known that you are expected to be at your station (desk, fry-o-lator, what have you) and working several minutes before the start of your shift.

Similarly, there is an expectation that you'll stay a few minutes past your shift to wrap things up. There's normally a culture that discourages employees from trying to claim their rightful quarter of an hour, even if the time ahead of shift and after shift add up to a full 15 minutes, let alone just fall into the amount that should be rounded up to the nearest quarter hour.

There's always been this imperfect balance between the worker and the employer. To a certain extent, failure to pay for all those extra minutes here and there seems reasonable, as settling little disputes over this amount of time would cause lost man hours and tons of frustration. But, at the same time, these employers are legally obligated to pay for the time and exert a silent coercion against their workers, with most employees having the feeling that haggling over a few hours of pay a year isn't worth killing their chances at advancement or a merit raise.

In all seriousness, my patronage of Amazon won't be effected. If they lose this case, they won't be the only company in America having to change how they handle this sort of payroll issue. You'll, also, have no end of fiscal conservative railing against the decision as the death knell of American business, especially the small variety.

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