Good guys come in first

It's not only common human decency to treat employees right. It's profitable as well.
By Raymond Dreyfack February 1, 2000

It’s not only common human decency to treat employees right. It’s profitable as well.

“In growing numbers,” states Knight-Ridder Service’s Maida Odom, “American workers are fighting against employers’ actions — with legal complaints and in the courts. Fired executives whose cases aren’t settled privately are winning 64% of the time… (and winning) large cash awards…”

So what to do if, in your company, bad things are happening to good people? Plant Engineer Ben Trace may have a suggestion.

In Trace’s company, his boss, General Manager John Shea, approached him with a disgruntled look on his face. “Ben, this is the third quarter in a row that our profits declined. Drastic action is called for.”

“What do you have in mind?” Trace asked.

“Look at this report,” Shea replied.

He produced a confidential medical report that listed a dozen or so employees who had been diagnosed with illnesses ranging from emotional disturbance to cancer and AIDS.

Trace’s face paled. “This report shouldn’t even have been run.”

“Don’t go idealistic on me,” Shea said irritably. “These people are costing us a bundle in insurance and medical costs, not to mention lost time. If we could induce them to resign…”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“You shouldn’t have to ask. Two of them are in your department.”

Question: In Trace’s shoes, what would you tell Shea?

Trace’s response: “John, you want to talk bottom line so let’s do it. Are you familiar with the Rychalsky case?

“The what?”

“Bob Rychalsky was a comptroller in a beauty culture school. After developing a brain tumor, he sued his company under the Americans With Disabilities Act for harassing employees with high medical bills into resigning. Rychalsky sued not only once, but three separate times. I can assure you it cost that company a helluva lot more to fight this case and pay off than what it might have gained by getting rid of a medically incapacitated employee.

“This may be an extreme case, but it’s only one case out of thousands. As one attorney puts it, ‘There’s a revolution in the workplace.’ He blames downsizing in part for the growth in lawsuits and the employee bitterness that incurs. To counter jury sensitivity, he says, we have to humanize the workplace.”

Shea grunted in response. “Well, we have to do something about this profit decline.”

“I agree. But not that.”