In their iconic song “Where have all the flowers gone?” Peter, Paul and Mary posed the question when will they ever learn. While not talking about war but rather our corporate environments on a global basis, I have the same question. In today’s global workplace it is mandatory that we not only talk the talk but walk the walk. Unfortunately, every day I see signs of where this is not the case.

Listen to your senior management as they proclaim that their people are their most valuable asset. Then look at the message delivered by the likes of Macys, the Salvation Army and others as they send the wrong message to their most valuable assets. Listen as they tell these valuable assets that they are critical to the organization but then treat them as a hinderance. Consider these examples:

  • Macy’s will pay a former long-term employee $75,000 to settle a disability discrim­ination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC’s lawsuit charged Macy’s with firing an asthmatic employee, rather than excuse a one-day absence the employee needed to address emergency complications arising from her disability. This alleged conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • The Salvation Army will pay $55,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. According to the EEOC’s suit, The Salvation Army refused to hire Eric Yanusz as a donation attendant, an entry-level position, at its Wasilla, Alaska thrift store. The position required no prior experience and involved accepting and sorting donated clothing, furniture and household goods. Yanusz, who has an intellectual disability, had completed high school and a follow-up job readiness program, finished three internships at medical centers, and held a part-time job at a local church by the time he applied for the attendant position in spring 2014. After a successful first interview, the EEOC found that Salvation Army imposed a highly unusual second interview on Yanusz and ultimately rejected him due to unfounded concerns about his ability to interact with the public.
  • Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., the utility that provides electrical and gas service to New York City and Westchester County, will pay $800,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. According to the EEOC’s complaint, the company’s doctors refused to medically approve qualified applicants to begin employment because of their disabilities, even though they could perform the jobs for which they applied. The company also performed medical examinations of applicants without giving them a conditional job offer first. Finally, the company’s doctors imposed improper medical restrictions on some existing employees with disabilities that reduced their earnings, and in one case led to termination, the EEOC said.

The role of the CEO and senior management is to provide the work environment under which all the organization’s value is promoted through its human capital assets. We do not achieve this when we talk out one side of our mouths stating how valuable our human capital is to the organization and then out of the other side exhibit actions like the organization’s above who truly do not get the message. It is critical that the two messages align within the marketplace.

In the title to this post we posed the question “when will they ever learn?” The EEOC actions suggest that senior management still has not gotten the message. In 2012, in a post titled “Open Letter to the CEO” , we wrote “what I do not understand is how you protect the interests of the stakeholders when by your very actions you and your peers have racked up a total of 64 billion dollars in fines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because you or someone in your organization has felt that under your direction it is totally acceptable to make some very dumb decisions.

How do you protect the stakeholder interests and your bottom line by charging against the organization bottom line a $3,000,000 fine for discrimination against your employees in your hiring process? This is on top of another fine of equal value for misclassifying your employees as 1099's instead of real employees. These are not isolated cases. Since August of 2011 I have received notices of 225 fines levied against your organizations for various forms of blatantly illegal actions on your part.

Where is your responsibility to protect your brand when as head of the organization you believe that discrimination is the way to protect the organization? Where is the responsibility to society to be a good citizen when you believe that discrimination is the correct path? Further what kind of message are you sending to your kids when they learn that their parent obviously believes that not every person in their organization is entitled to equal treatment under the law.

So, I leave you again by asking the question When Will You Ever Learn that demeaning your employees is not a good business decision. When will you ever learn that you can’t expect to have engaged employees when you tell your employees one thing and then do the exact opposite. The monetary subtractions from your bottom line because you have not awaken to this fact.

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