Unrealistic Work Goals Are Legal

An employee working in manufacturing and production wrote to The Evil HR Lady at CBS MoneyWatch to ask if her boss is out of line for increasing her production goal by 150 percent. He may be, but he hasn’t broken any federal laws.

Working stiffs are often at the mercy of their supervisors. In a previous post, “Can They Fire Me For That?,” we explained the lack of power suffered by any at-will employee. There is also a lack of rules and regulations governing treatment of at-will employees while they have a job.

The Evil HR Lady says that too much government intervention in business may be a bad thing. Her example of Boehner and Pelosi sitting down every year to hammer out the details of each individual employee’s annual production goals is excessive, and much more unrealistic than increasing one person’s production goal by 150 percent sounds.

Congress reviewing every American worker’s production goals every year is not the only alternative to laws or protections for employees. Currently, if you are an at-will employee the only rights you enjoy from the federal government are not being discriminated against on the basis race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. If the boss discriminates against you because he does not like you, it is perfectly legal as far as the federal government is concerned.

It is easy to complain about lack of worker rights, and more difficult to create rules and regulations that are both enforceable and reasonable for all concerned.

If everyone on a production line is meeting the set goals, it is statistically likely that the goal is set too low. Making intelligent and reasonable, incremental increases for the whole line seems less draconian than more than doubling one employee’s production goals overnight.

There was a time that business owners scoffed at not being able to require workers to put in 12-hour days, seven days per week. Today, that is illegal (unless the employees are being paid overtime). The government could enact general guidelines that would prevent overworking employees on the factory floor.

Successful business owners do try to do what is best for the business. Unfortunately, sometimes what they may believe is best for the business is inhumane for the workers. At-will employees currently have no recourse or ways to protect themselves. It seems reasonable to reconsider this. 

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