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What’s the story on oppressive HR rules?

A friend took a job at a call center taking inbound calls to schedule product installations. I believe she is paid less than $10 per hour. She clocks in four times a day (upon arrival, after lunch and after her two breaks). If she is late by as much as one minute for any of these four events, it counts. Once she is late nine times, she is terminated. THIS IS A LIFETIME LIMIT.

She has been late only six times in a year and a half. I think this is extraordinary, especially in Ohio where winter weather can be pretty severe, but I also think the situation is hopeless. She is in her mid 50s and expects to work another ten years. I don’t see how she will make it through ten more years since she can only be late two more times.

As may be expected, there is constant turnover. She frequently comes to work to find that a friend is no longer working there.

Oh, and by the way, the sick leave policy is rigid too.

I suppose the benefits to her company of high turnover—no vesting, benefits not accrued—outweigh the expense of the constant training the employer must conduct.

This is not the first time I have heard such a tale. I am especially amazed—and distressed—by the lifetime limit on being late. It seems totally unreasonable to me and puts all the risk of being a human being—getting sick, bad weather, car problems, family illness, malfunctioning alarm clock—on the employee.

I have never seen this topic addressed in print so I am asking for your help. I’d like to research it on Google and elsewhere, but I don’t even know the formal name for these lifetime or long-term limits on being late.

  • Is there an HR term I could use to describe these career-long counts that never start over or perhaps only once a year?

  • Do these apply to HR personnel themselves or only to hourly staff? (I suspect managers enjoy much more flexibility.)

  • Do those terminated qualify for unemployment compensation?

  • Is this becoming common? (Ugh, I hope not)

The reason I ask is that I have written an ebook on how to start freelancing and consulting. (http://www.StartFreelancingAndConsulting.com), and I’m thinking of repositioning it to promote self-employment as a positive alternative to these hopeless jobs.

It is clearly possible to earn substantial money as a solopreneur, and this is often offered as a reason to pursue this choice.

However, freelancing and consulting also make sense at the lower end of the salary scale. If you are looking at a job paying only $400 or so per week, why not use unemployment compensation as an opportunity to get your own practice off the ground?

You only need to earn about $1600 before taxes to match your income at some of these depressing jobs. Plus you have greater flexibility and opportunity in growing your income.

And let’s not forget that success as a solopro builds on itself. Being occasionally late by a few minutes to your home desk is a non-problem (unless you write yourself up!), while employment at one of these lousy jobs can disappear in an instant.

Of course there’s still the health insurance problem . . .

Originally posted 9-23-10

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