Prairie View

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Labor Laws

Because strange things sometimes catch my fancy, I spent time yesterday and today reading up on labor laws. 

Before I started, one mantra echoed in my head:  equal pay for equal work.  I discovered that this is common wording for a summary of  a law enacted in 1963 in the Equal Pay Act which established pay equality for both genders.  In 1964, in the Civil Rights Act, equality was extended across other categories:  race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.  I can't cite the exact law for the next categories, but federal law also forbids discrimination based on disability, age (40 or older), citizenship status, and genetic information. 

Unequal pay based on marital status is against state laws in about half of the states.  This is not addressed in federal labor laws.  Kansas has no state law forbidding pay discrimination based on marital status.  On behalf of my single friends, family, and colleagues, I feel like I maybe should apologize for this oversight in state law.  I hope the state law oversight is not perpetuated in Christian businesses or ministries.

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Can  employees be forbidden to discuss compensation with other employees?  Here's what I found:
Employee compensation is a sensitive subject, one that many employers would like to keep secret.
Can an employer in the U.S. create a company policy that prohibits employees from discussing pay rate and salary levels with other employees or (gasp) on social media?
For the most part: no, employers may not prohibit employees from discussing compensation according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and an April 2014 Executive Order from President Obama.  Link

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Hiromi has never been an employer, and he has never worked as an employee in a Mennonite-owned business, so the background for an impression he has is a bit hard to identify.  He believes that some of us who take very seriously the need to be good stewards of our resources are likely to overlook what is equally important--making sure that we use our finances in such a way that those around us are fairly compensated for whatever they offer others.  If one prospers at the expense of others, no amount of careful stewardship on the prospering person's part can atone for having treated others ungenerously.

Hiromi also has a finely-tuned sense for manipulation or controlling behavior.  If employer decisions carried even a faint whiff of such a thing in Hiromi's workplace, he would be standing his ground or looking for the exits right away.  He doesn't see virtue in careful planning if others are not respected in the process. 

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What I'd really like to understand is how Christian ethics apply to employer/employee relationships.  These insights can't be acquired only by listening to Hiromi or studying state and federal law.  They come by the Holy Spirit making the Word of God alive in our hearts.  Walling off the category of employer/employee interactions from the rest of our obligations and privileges as members of Christ's kingdom would surely be a grave mistake.

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