The Nature of Employer-Employee Relations

Sex on television can’t hurt you unless you fall off” – Unknown

This story apparently comes from Australia, but I think the implication for employer-employee relations holds here in America too. In November 2007, a woman in her late 30s (whose name cannot be given) went on an overnight business trip requiring a hotel stay. Apparently she had a male friend in the town she was visiting and called him up to meet after work. One thing led to another and they ended up back in her hotel room having sex, and, according to him, “going pretty hard.” At some point they hit the wall and a fixture fell injuring her.

Let me say that again, because it bears repeating. After work she had rough sex in her hotel room and was injured. She has just been awarded workers compensation … because she was injured on the job. I won’t fault the judge’s logic here – claiming that she would have received benefits if she had fallen in the shower, so why not other natural activities? Still, I think the whole affair (you heard me) speaks to the nature of the employer-employee relationship.

In a free world, with a free market, your employer is a business partner. You are exchanging time, skills, and experience for money. The employer may be using your productivity in conjunction with others (your coworkers) to build a bigger product than anyone would be able to produce efficiently on their own, which he will then sell at market to an end user. It’s all free and fair. If personal risks (such as sex injuries while on business travel) should be addressed specifically in the contract.

This business partner notion is not how much of the country sees the relationship. The employer is the boss, the ruler, the one with the power, and in some ways, the employer is the adult in the relationship. The simpleton employee can’t be made to take responsibility for himself, for he is just a “child” and not capable of carrying such heavy burdens.

We see it in our public political debate all the time. “Employers ought to [insert benevolent theme here]” – as though the employers were holding all the money and economic goods back for themselves and refusing to share with the begging-children-employees. Yet the employers are simply agents acting in the free market, and they have to make their business work (i.e., be cost efficient) or they’ll be out of a job themselves. They negotiate with the workers to exchange goods and services and productive capabilities in an attempt to make the business work. It’s free, it’s fair, it works … if we let it.

As for this young lady in Australia, I hope she’s OK. Yes, it has been almost five years and I’m sure the injuries have healed … it just seemed appropriate to express condolences to the injured party.

For the rest of us, we need to strike the parent-child motif from our employment narrative. We can all be adults.

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