Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

What About Worst Employers?

December 13th, 2007 | Paula Brantner

It’s the time of the year where reporters break out that oft-used story generator: the yearly list. When it’s too hard to put together a real story, it’s always possible to pull a bunch of unrelated items together, give it a theme, and call it your 2007 list. I can’t say I blame them — I’ve been known to do the same thing myself. But when CNN decided to publish a story called “Worst Employees of the Year,” you can imagine why my blood was boiling.

Last year, Workplace Fairness released a Labor Day report called: The Good, the Bad, and Wal-Mart: The Year in Workplace Fairness. You can tell from the title that we just didn’t report the bad news — we tried to provide some balance between positive trends and negative trends. Although we did not do another similar report this year, there honestly haven’t been that many changes from the previous year.

For example, on the “bad” side, we reported that “the income gap between the richest and poorest one-fifth of families is “significantly wider” than it was two decades ago.” (See Income Inequality.) Over a year later, the news is even worse. In an article entitled, “Report Says That the Rich Are Getting Richer Faster, Must Faster,” we learn that in the most recent data released by the Congressional Budget Office,

The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans….The poorest fifth of households had total income of $383.4 billion in 2005, while just the increase in income for the top 1 percent came to $524.8 billion, a figure 37 percent higher.

Think about that: one percent of the people (who already have the most money of all) increased — not made, but increased — their income more in two years than 20 percent of the population. But the news article I read was not “Billionaires Behaving Badly,” or “2007’s Top Ten Corporate Criminals,” but focused on employees. Not that it’s criminal to make money, but when you compare a group of people who have it made to another group who can barely survive, surely the most shocking behavior comes from those who don’t have any mitigating circumstances.

Yes, there were some doozies on the list: when you have 128 million Americans who work for a living, not all of them are going to be perfect. There are people who lie, cheat, steal, use drugs, and endanger the health and safety of others in this world, and some of it happens in the workplace. The thing is, it’s not just employees who engage in this behavior. If you don’t believe me, check out the entries in Working America’s annual My Bad Boss contest. [Note: Working America is my current employer.]

But where is CNN’s Worst Employer List?

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