The general field of human resources has become more and more difficult as well as more perilous. That is not just a simple generalized statement made for dramatic effect and just for the purpose of setting up the introduction of this paper. Indeed, there are some questions that can and should be posed by human resources professionals that do not have clear answers because of how complicated and how contradictory the field's body of work has become. The ethical implications and obligations pertaining to human resources have been made very muddled by contradicting laws and guidelines thus making real compliance beyond a reasonable doubt very hard to pull off.
The hypothesis that underlies this report comes down to one main statement, and that is as follows:
The different ethics, laws and vagueness that exists in both has made it possible to become completely and reliably compliant with the expectations and laws of the human resources field in the United States.
There are three main reasons why the above is being asserted. First, the ethical standards that are asserted vary from person to person or from group to group and there is often a dichotomous environment if politics or something else virulent in nature is used to set the ethical prism at hand. The definition of what is "ethical" can vary quite widely from person to person and from political viewpoint to political viewpoint and the balance these viewpoints is important because even if an ethical standard is not codified within or otherwise part of the law, not complying with the prevailing standard can lead to loss of business or unwelcome attention from government officials. The aftermath of the clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh and the post-bailing behavior of AIG are but two examples of this in action. The third and final major reason why legal and ethical compliance is exceedingly difficult is because some laws are intentionally written in a manner whereby the level of action or behavior needed is not clearly defined and is often vague (Koppel, 2005). Use of the words "as the secretary shall determine" or "reasonable" can leave employers and private employers in a lurch because they are not entirely sure what activities and levels of compliance are acceptable and which ones are not (Charen, 2011). This answer is often left to a court or the agency itself "clarifying" their position and the answer is usually not monolithic or "one size fits all" in nature. A real-world example of this in action is the pervasive use of the phrase "as the secretary shall determine" that is present in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.
To test the hypothesis above, the author took two major approaches. First, the author did a survey amongst 20 business leaders and upper managers and asked them one basic question, that being "do you believe that politicians and advocacy groups are generally working for business or against business." The answer was almost unanimous (16 out of 20) amongst the twenty respondents and it was a clear vote for government being an adversary of business and not an ally. There was a common refrain among many of them that employers are treated like the enemy and as oppressors of the employees in the name of profit.
Is the government against business?
Is the government for business?
Do you feel most advocacy/special interest groups are pro-business?
Clearly, the feeling of anti-business sentiment never got below 75% for the three questions mentioned above. It is clear that business leaders feel that both special interest and advocacy groups as well as the government are clearly against businesses and view them as a problem rather than a solution.
The author of this report also looked at each of the three dimensions through a research and scholarly prism to see if the broader opinion and theory about business vs. government is the same. As for the commonplace existence of contradictions in the law, there is no doubt this is happening. Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States issued guidance that choosing against people based on criminal history is now verboten in many to most cases, depending on the crime in question and the job being hired for. While the idea of not using people's past or distant past against them is a question that can and should be posed, it also can fly in the face of the concept of protecting the firm from a known ex-felon and/or the possibility of negligent hiring in general.
For example, if a firm is 50/50 men and women and a potential hire has a rape conviction in their past, then that alone would disqualify the person from being hired because it is more important to keep the women (i.e. potential victims) safe and it is well-known that sexual offenders are quite likely to recidivate once they've been busted and released once. It is not a certainty, but it is quite likely to happen again if it's happened before. Regardless of the true level of risk, most employers won't dare take the risk because of the obvious moral and ethical implications, just to stat, as well as the fact that the employer could (and many say should) be held liable if they enter an employment arrangement with the person and the person recidivates against an employee either within or outside of the context of work.
Using a slightly less poignant example, there is also the prospect of having to hire, per EEOC edict, a person with a history of theft, burglary or embezzlement. This can be dangerous due to the prospect of other employees being stolen from and/or the firm itself being stolen from. This can include cash, equipment, etc. And cash can be both in electronic and physical form. Financial services and retail firms in particular are often refusing when it comes to hiring ex-thieves of any sort. However, the potential or current standards of the EEOC are making concurrent paths of protecting the firm and avoiding the wrath of the EEOC practically impossible. Indeed, one of the test cases that the EEOC is using as their poster child was someone who came up dirty in a background check and this led to a non-hire. As it turns out, the record was wrong but this was not the employer's fault and they had to act with the presumption that it was accurate. The general propensity, and a good one at that, to not hire people that are potentially dangerous to a firm or its people is under fall assault from the upper echelons of the federal government. As such, HR policies regarding who and who cannot or should not be hired given certain criminal histories are now being pushed to a state of flux when the desire of firms from an HR policy standpoint is quite clear and well-founded.
The second condition that leads the author of this report to state that ethical and legal questions pertaining to HR policies of broad concern put employers in an unwinnable battle is the current state of political and ideological thought in this country. Granted, the idea that paying people as little as possible while remaining compliant with the law can be taken too far. However, jobs in the retail and restaurant sector often make minimum wage or close to it because the jobs are unskilled and the amount of applicants that seek these jobs is never-ending. There is the concept of not paying more than the market dictates even if that wage bumps up against minimum wage and this dovetails quite neatly with the idea of not paying more than is necessary so as allowing the stores to keep their price points lower. Indeed, price points tend to rise as the minimum wage rises.
However, there is a perceived war against the lower-paid people in American society and this by far one of the more common manifestations of this. There is talk of a "living wage" being payable to all people. However, as noted above, this does not square at all with the lower prices demanded by consumers nor does it jive with the fact that offering health insurance or other exorbitant benefits to workers almost always flies in the face of the return on investment that is actually being realized due to an employee's hire. Indeed, if hiring an employee is a net loss to a firm, one has to ask what the point is other than having them do a job because there is no other real benefit that can be reasonably explained in dollars and cents. Many pro-employee advocates as well as the employees themselves have said that a $15 an hour wage (twice the legal minimum wage at the federal level) is the right level. For a full-time employee, that would come to roughly $30,000 a year. This is ridiculously high for an unskilled…