No Pay for Boot-Up Time: More Corporate Slash-‘n-Burn

The Evil HR Lady has an interesting post here about lawsuits brought against corporations who refused to pay wages to employees for brief periods of time (@15 to 30 minutes per day) during which their computers were being booted up and/or shut down.

The Evil HR Lady (an anonymous “HR professional in a Fortune 500 Company” and well-respected blogger) makes the following excellent points about these no-pay-for-boot-up practices:

I’ll leave the legalities to the lawyers … Let’s talk about the people. Remember them? We’re supposed to lead them. This is supposed to cause HR to lead organizations.

Apparently, we were leading them to self destruction. (Where are we and why are we in this handbasket? we might ask ourselves.) Sure, employees aren’t “working” while their computers are booting up. They may even be, gasp! talking to their co-workers or drinking coffee. But, they are in the office. They can’t be somewhere else. They have to be in the building. Therefore, they are at work and should be paid as such.

But, let’s say, for argument’s sake, that [the companies] are legally right. Computer booting time can be unpaid. Just how much do you hate your people? Do you want them to leave? Do you want to drain the lifeblood out of them? Do you not understand that your best employees will find new jobs and that as a result, the quality of your workforce will gradually decline?

… You cannot run a good business without good employees. You cannot get and keep good employees without good policies. If HR is encouraging this type of policy … then they should be ashamed of themselves.

Trying to save a few bucks will result in you destroying your company. Your people are your company. Stop being stingy.

I completely agree with Evil HR Lady’s points here, which are: (1) people (employees) are a company’s greatest resource; (2) employees will resent a company’s stinginess, and will try to leave a company that is stingy; and (3) it is therefore not in a company’s financial interest to be stingy and save a few bucks in the short term, when the long-term effects (loss of many good employees) cost more.

But I will add there is another element in play here, aside from these companies’ disregard of best-practices as to finances: disregard of workers’ humanity. These companies’ wage policies treat workers as merely numbers- at best as cattle.

Do these companies ever stop to think thoughts like these: “Geez- maybe we have legal grounds to argue Joe should be paid for 7.5 hours rather than 8. After all, it does take about one half hour total time for him to boot up and shut down his computer. BUT… Joe is here 8 hours because we require him to be. Joe is a responsible person. Joe has mouths to feed at home. And hey, maybe we could argue this computer time is an arguable legal issue, but when looking at Joe as a fellow human being- as someone like me- it’s a no-brainer to pay him for 8 hours. After all, I [INSERT CORP MANAGER’S NAME] would want to be paid for 8 hours if I were in Joe’s shoes.”

Thoughts like these rarely occur in corporate America, I am convinced. Little thought is given to the human toll of slash-and-burn management and penny-pinching.

There is no Golden Rule. The Rule is Gold. Or, some transient managers’ idea of it.


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Filed under Philosophy - Employee Rights

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