It keeps happening. A group of employees loses their jobs. None of them had problems on the job. In fact, many of them had a proven record of excellence. Some had worked for this company for a few months, some for many years.
With little explanation they were told their jobs had ended and to leave company property as soon as they were able to gather their belongings. There was no warning something like this might happen. There was no ability to look for other work in the company or elsewhere. One day, the people were working. The next, they were unemployed.
This is the reality of work life in the United States. I do not know if this is what employees experience anywhere else in the world, but for some time now, people have had no guarantee they will have a job the next day.
I came of age when long-term job security was nearing the end. In the 1980s, working for the same company for the length of a person’s working life was not assured. Unions were being busted. Companies were taking more control of employee wages and benefits. We were told to expect people to have not only many different jobs throughout their careers, but they might work in different types of jobs. This was simply unheard of prior to this change.
Unions were complicit in this change. Many unions were making ridiculous demands companies could not meet and remain profitable. Poor work performance was protected by union rules.
I heard people from the local commuter campus where I attended college talk about doing school work while at their jobs. They would simply find a place to hide in the factory. People would know the number of infractions of employment rules they could violate. They would take these infractions to the limit and then remain employed year after year.
I truly can understand the frustration of employers when dealing with worker demands. But this situation of simply telling people they no longer have a job one day is grossly unfair for many reasons.
One reason is that these employees typically have satisfactory to excellent employment records. But like many other states, Indiana is an at-will state.
Companies can tell people they no longer have a job for any or no reason.
Another reason this situation is unfair is that it provides no opportunity for the employee to plan for possible job loss. It can be devastating to the new employee who may have moved to take this new job. It can be devastating to the single person who only has one income to rely on. It can be devastating to the family who has just purchased a new home and needs both incomes to make mortgage payments.
So what can a company do when it is faced with the need to cut back the number of employees? Notifying employees too early can invite retaliation against the company or slowed-down work performance. So planning is essential.
Let employees know as early as possible that the number of employees will need to be reduced. Invite those who are able to file for retirement. Offer the opportunity to move to a different part of the company. Offer resources so employees might seek retraining. Offer services that will help employees seek other employment.
None of these is a perfect solution. Some will lead to having to deal with unhappy employees longer than is comfortable. But we must find a better way. Telling people one day their job is gone and telling them to leave is devastating. It is inhumane.
Jim Matthews is a long-time resident of Greenfield. You may share your comments at email@example.com.