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Corporate Dominance in Employment

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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 1:07 pm    Post subject: Corporate Dominance in Employment Reply with quote

A recent article in the Portland Business Journal ("Noncompete agreements aren't always easy to enforce", April 28, 2006) spurred me to ponder the one-way nature of these kinds of agreements.

First, there's the well-known issue of fairness. Employment is a variety of contract, with both parties freely agreeing to the exchange of goods and services to their mutual benefit. But noncompete agreements are always a one-way affair. If the relationship were one undertaken on the basis of equality, then a potential employee could reasonably request a reciprocal agreement, in which the employer would be restricted from using the fruits of an employee's labor if they voluntarily dismissed an employee. Or, they might be restricted from hiring another employee to perform the tasks that the original employee did. When put this way, the unfairness of a noncompete agreement is clearly illustrated.

Another example that really shows this is drug testing. A prospective employee could reasonably ask that the CEO and the board members of a prospective employer be drug tested, since their performance, as shown by their much higher compensation, is more crucial to the success of the overall company and hence to the chances of success for the prospective employee. To the extent that it is reasonable for an employer to ask a prospective employee to submit to such a test, it seems to me much more reasonable for top-level management to submit to such tests and to make the results known to prospective employees.

Of course, we all know the reaction if such requests were to be made: outrage and the prospective employee not being hired. Whole areas of law, and heavy-duty mechanisms of the government (the Federal Reserve, for instance) are designed to ensure that employees do not either have or feel that they have the power to be able to ask for these fairly reasonable reciprocal agreements from their employers.

I invite others to add examples illustrating the nature of this power imbalance.

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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2006 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree. For the past 20 years, during the rebuilding of business after the collapse of traditional industry, there have been a great amount of talk paid to "employees". Yet, even the employee of the most enlightened white collar corporation ( Google, e.g. ) has little or no power when it comes to the basics of his employment. He has no contract. He can be fired at will for any reason (yes, he can sue, if he has the resources and so on, but at expense and cost to his life -- whereas the defendant, the business, can brush it off easily). He has no ownership -- the minute he becomes incapacitated, his income flow ends. He cannot pass on the fruits of his labor to his children.
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