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Think Twice Walk in Her Boots, Mr. President

March 9, 2001
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Related Topics: The HR Profession, Featured Article
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President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

Now that you've had time to unpack yourbags, toss your Stetsons on the rack, and trash all the leftover Filet-o-Fishwrappers from the Oval Office, I want to make some suggestions to you and LaborSecretary Elaine Chao:

For the first time ever in history, youshould support and sign a federal law making it illegal to fire someone forbeing gay or to reject a candidate because of his or her sexual orientation.

What quicker way to show you're seriousabout uniting and not dividing America? A similar bill was introduced during thelast Congress - by one of your fellow Republicans, as a matter of fact. I don'tbuy the nonsense that such a law would cause quotas, cripple religiousinstitutions, and require employers to pay domestic-partner benefits. In fact,this Republican bill was carefully written to prevent all three things fromhappening.

Once you're done with that, take a hardlook at the Family and Medical Leave Act. Now I'm aware of that sugar-n-spicysurvey the Labor Department in the previous administration came out with. Youknow, the one that claimed, "The FMLA is working without the burden tobusiness many have feared. More than 8 out of 10 employers report eitherpositive or no noticeable impact on company productivity, profits, orgrowth."

Come on now. I've been checking out theWorkforce Legal Forum, this online message board we have, every day for threeyears now, and the FMLA generates more confusion than most of the other laborlaws on the books combined. Readers of Workforce magazine spend hours at thatforum, and have learned that if you stick the FMLA, vacation time, sick time,and workers' comp in a big blender, you get nothing but confusion stew, with anoccasional lawsuit sprinkled on top.

Spending all that time just figuringout the FMLA can't have a "positive impact on company productivity,profits, or growth." Simplify and clarify the law, or throw it out.

Next, use the tax code to encourageemployers to hire employees with disabilities.

An expanded tax credit will do a muchbetter job than the ADA has. The ADA is another mandate, and that means thatemployers are getting scared off from hiring disabled employees in the firstplace, fearing - rightly or wrongly - that accommodations will be expensive. Carrots(money) are usually better than sticks (rules).

One more thing. Take a day and spend itwith a human resources professional. You'll see that she wants to help thecompany recruit top employees and create a culture that fosters innovation andcreativity. Instead, she's having to comply with a numbing array of state andfederal laws, many of which are duplicative and contradictory.

It's hard to be in the boardroomtalking with the CEO about how to become an "employer of choice" whenyou're spending your time figuring out whether the dishwasher detergent in thebreak room is grounds for a government fine.

These HR people wear a lot of differentStetsons, Mr. President, and it would help to walk a mile in their boots.


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