The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Tag: employment

German police officer allowe d to get dressed on work time.

In a rather ballsy employment action a German police officer has successfully won the right to get paid for dressing himself before work.

The idea is that police officers are required to wear a uniform to do their duties and that putting on that uniform takes time. It is estimated that it takes an officer about 15 minutes to suit up for work, that adds up to months along the lifetime of an officer. It’s about a week (45-50 hours) a year that he should either get as annual leave or paid worktime says an administrative court in Münster.

I’m against the idea of unpaid overtime myself too but this seems quite remarkable as a concept. It seems wrong to only cover people who have to put on a uniform in the morning before going to work and not people who just have to wear clothes when working. The quantum also seems to work on the basis of how long it takes you to get ready so, for example, an employee who wears a three piece suit would spend slightly longer than someone who wears a two piece suit and thereby is due slightly more money from their employer. I think as a precedent there’s really quite a lot you could do with this one.

This action is actually extremely serious – there’s a union behind this one and they’re using this as a test case with thousands of related actions to follow should the police waive their appeal or lose again. It would cost the German state a fortune if this goes through.

In summary to all my German readers – there is suddenly an economic case for wearing a scarf to work every day and you should immediately stop wearing slip on shoes.

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Hell is other people?

There’s a fairly straight forward seeming employment law issue brewing in Walmart Arkansas, the law suit argues that a straight up and productive senior consultant was fired into a poor economy with a bad review a little while after after his co-workers didn’t want him to use the company washroom to prepare for his daily prayers. That’s basically the sort of religious discrimination action many would sell children to be able to represent. It seems a pretty hamfisted handling of the situation by Walmart. Regardless, it will run and run, the case is still in early days yet and Walmart has its right of reply and so on. The interesting thing is the sort of reaction these stories get in terms of anonymous comments: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2009/09/wal-mart_deloitte_civil_rights.php

There are two main sides to the discussion in the comments thread. Very few people leaving a comment don’t have some sort of opinion on the topic. There are two lists, one is comments from people who give if definitely not their real or full name and the other are people who give a not a name as their handle. I’m cherry picking for the two lists but I think it’s a trend I’ve noticed by other users anonymous commenting. Remember, all of these people had the choice (and may have) to leave a false name. Why do the people who leave a name not advise that the Muslim worker commit suicide while those who leave a handle do?

I blog anonymously, I really like that I can make infantile, ill-thought out comments on law without a future employer googling my name and discovering that, back in 2007-2008, I knew pretty much nothing about whatever topic. I’m not particularly right wing, if you’re not liberal when you’re young you’ve not got a heart, so it’s not really comparable for my sort of anonymity but my plan is to avoid writing anything on the blog that I can’t defend in real life discussion.

Examples of the first list:

Simon says:
“Wudu is the process where muslims clean themselves up(face,hands, foot, mouth rinse) with water from any dirt or germs that they may have collected during work or any other activity. This entire process takes less than 5 mins. Being a businessman and handling 74 employees i can’t think of any burden/complexity/hardship this process can bring to the employer. Shame on Walmart.”

David Ross says:
“Just terrible. Why can’t Muslims enjoy the same rights and freedoms in America that Christians and Jews enjoy in Saudi Arabia?”

blutenhalbmond says:
“A Muslim prayer is essentially a few minutes (5 minutes max) devoted to gloifying the Lord and he/she emerges after that short experience cleaner, more relaxed relieved of tension, anger and hostility, in short, with a more positive attitude to one’s workplace. This is why the afternoon prayer is ordained and the corporate world should in fact welcome it.

The “wazu” or wudu (former spelling is more common in Non Arabic countries) is a psychological gesture of purification as well as a good reason to clean up. Its a healthy thing to do. We all should at least once in the middle of our work should rinse their hands up to the elbows, splash some cold water on our faces and behind the necks, gargle and clean our throat and noses of junk that may have accumulated therein. A most commendable hygienic habit if you think rationally, laying your angers prejudices aside for a moment.”

Examples of the second list:

kidding? says:

“Kidding right? What if my religious beliefs required me to spend a few minutes upside down each day at work? Or required me to smoke some dope? Or, what if I walked the aisles praying aloud to my God of choice in whispers? What if I chose to wear a dull sword or a light wand to symbolize my religious faith?

This is medieval superstition, pure and simple, whether the guy is a Muslim or evangelical Christian or a devotee of Thor or Wohan. If people want to delude themselves by talking to some non-existent being, they are free to do so at home. Tolerance of religion is not a virtue, it’s a regress into the past. Just like the dumb-ass judge who wanted to hang the 10 Commandments in his courthouse, this foolishness ought to be rewarded with a good-bye, please work elsewhere.”

Good Riddance says:

“I think it’s good he was fired.
Fundamentalism should not be tolerated.
If he is unable to integrate into a secular society(work a whole shift without being disruptive) then he should move to Pakistan.”

US Citizen says:
“His religion prevented him from doing a standard professional job. Walmart should hold its ground here. If they don’t, Walmart will lose my respect.

If he wants to be a Muslim, he can go back home. Or he could kill himself, which would be much better.”

On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. But they might guess you’re just a tiny bit racist.

The Office Party

The current economic climate is bad for people looking for work, let me tell you, but it’s also eroding the perks for people who have one. One of the first casualties of the downturn is the office Christmas party. Presumably to avoid the cost of replacing the photocopier yet again many companies are either greatly downsizing or cancelling altogether their staff do.

The most interesting move I have heard of is that a recently bailed out bank has been reported to be paying its staff back for parties they have booked outside of work and are now ordered to not attend. I think that’s a strange move, especially because initially the staff members were supposed to absorb the loss themselves.

The staff party is just as much a carefully researched and cost analysed productivity tool as any machine in a factory – big companies are not known, generally, to throw money at things they don’t get a benefit from.

The reason that Google  famously gives its staff (now only programming staff) free meals is that it keeps them at their desks, where they can get work done, for increasingly long hours. It’s not a wish to feed the starving masses – it’s to have people who “just happen to be around the office so I did some work on Project X” for longer hours than usual , say if an employee is salaried for 9 til 5 but dinner is at 6.30 he could decide he may as well stay on till then.

Likewise the office party is useful because it’s a reasonably cheap way to, contrary to appearances, boost employee morale and thereby productivity. Happy staff are better with customers and better employee/customer relationships leads to increased revenue – it’s an accepted economic principle.

Apparently happy employees only make sense in a boom time. The party must go.

The writer of Single Guy Money reported the changes to his Christmas party:

• Instead of an open bar, we were given drink tickets. Each person was given 2 drink tickets while equalled 2 free drinks. You could drink more but you had to pay full price after your 2 free drinks. Luckily, I am pretty good friends with the ticket holder so I was able to score a few extra tickets.
• Our party was held in a large hotel in downtown Atlanta. In past years, the company would pay for rooms for employees that live more than 50 miles from the hotel. For those who lived closer but were not able to drive, you could get a reduced price room. This year, everyone had to pay for their own room (full price).
• Instead of a buffet style dinner, the food was mostly appetizers. In years past, they usually went all out with the food selection.

Compared to banks and political parties (who simply don’t want employees associated with them looking happy because they don’t want the public to think they’re enjoying our (well, Ken Dodd and my fellow students are taking a moral stand on this) tax bailout too much) that sounds extremely generous. Anyone who has had a wedding knows that the open bar is a quick way to spend a great of money and hotel rooms are expensive when you have to buy enough of them to not end up with harassment suits so these are pretty much common sense cost cutting measures.
It’s actually only when they’re compared to the year before that they become so stark, the fun isn’t spoiled, the concept of paying for your own drinks shouldn’t be alien to any one old enough to actually attend an office party and it doesn’t leave the company looking like it’s in desperate financial straights.

Frankly, if I was a director with millions of pounds of stock options that are on the knife edge of becoming much less I might even consider paying for those drinks myself. Is that not a rational economic choice?

Why don’t other companies follow this example? A company party which is obviously cut price or one which is entirely cancelled reflects badly on the company and will be received badly by the staff.

Isn’t company image and employee morale worth a few rounds of drinks anymore?