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Employee Ownership?

It was a chance encounter. Juli Briskman was out riding her bike on a Saturday in October. Trump was just leaving from playing another round of golf. Trump’s motorcade passed Briskman and she saluted the Resident of the White House with her middle finger. Had a photographer not caught the act it would have just been another typical day. This day, it would get Briskman fired. The company’s position:  it owns its employees.

Trump’s Single Digit Approval Rating

Quid Pro Quo

It’s important to note that Briskman was not identified in the photo, nor could she be identified as the photographer was behind her. She voluntarily told her company that she was the one in the photo. The company then fired her.

Employment is a quid pro quo environment. An employer agrees to pay compensation and benefits in return for certain specific tasks and responsibilities. Employment is not servitude, nor does it allow an employer to govern the employee’s actions 24/7/365. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States forbids indentured servitude along with slavery.

In the social media age, businesses have attempted to expand their authority over employees and govern hu’s (her/his) non-work activities. The problem is that if a company is allowed to govern free speech outside of the work environment they are essentially making a demand on an employee’s time, expression, and choice without compensation. Again, employment is a Quid Pro Quo environment and both parties must agree to the terms of what is offered in return for compensation and benefits.

Is the Reverse True?

The test of this situation is to reverse it. If the company can claim it can govern employee behavior during non-work hours for no pay, does that mean all employee non-work activity is a liability for the company? If an employee kills someone, can the victim’s family sue the company? The point is that a company cannot arbitrarily decide what non-work activities it governs. If it governs some non-work activities, shouldn’t the company assume responsibility for all non-work activities?

The reality is that business has failed to be reasonable in its limitations on employee rules and policies. It is now time to reestablish that quid pro quo relationship and stop attempting to ignore the 13th Amendment.