New graduates are dealing with some rotten timing. Just as they are finishing their studies, the pandemic has destroyed the job market. Unemployment is higher than it has been in almost 90 years. So landing a job may be difficult for a while.
But when things do start to turn around, young workers need to be prepared for some hard realities of the job world. It’s likely you haven’t been prepared for some of the rules you are about to be hit with. We’re here to offer the preparation you need.
You Can Only Get Fired for Legitimate Reasons
Once upon a time, a college student was hired to work in a diner. He was hired in October. The week after Christmas, he and three others hired at the same time were fired. This was a case of temporarily staffing the kitchen while long-term workers took holiday time off. But imagine the college student’s surprise when he was told the reason for the firing was that the other staff didn’t like him.
Can you actually get fired because someone doesn’t like you? Yes, you can.
Things like break times and reasons for dismissal are set at the state, rather than federal, level. Most states are “at-will” states, which means your employer can end your employment at any time, for any reason. There are federal protections against discrimination and illegal activity. So, age, ethnicity, being in a protected class, or you refusing to set your co-worker on fire cannot be reasons to fire you. But if they decide you are a jerk, or they feel like three monkeys in an overcoat will do a better job, they can probably send you packing.
You may be tempted to cry foul and contemplate filing a lawsuit. You can if you want, but in almost every case, the decision will be in favor of the employer. When they file forms on your dismissal, they can almost literally write anything on the “reason for dismissal” line, as long as it’s not illegal, and won’t face any repercussions.
Paid Bathroom Breaks
All jobs have their rough days. Sometimes the only thing you can do is lock yourself in a bathroom stall and chill for a while. And occasionally, you might actually need to use the restroom. Whatever the case may be, some employers are incredibly interested in your bladder and bowels, to a disturbing degree.
The Watersaver Faucet Company infamously introduced a rule back in 2014 that forced employees to clock in and out of the bathroom. There was a goal here – to ensure that no one was in there for more than six minutes per shift or a half-hour per week. If you could go an entire month without ever clocking into The Great Throne Room, you could win a gift card.
Remember when you were in grade school? You had to beg for permission and hope some authority figure was in a good mood and would let you carry on your natural biological functions. This policy basically forces adults to do the same thing. It’s surprising there was no Bathroom Police to watch you do the deed and tell you how to do it better.
Watersaver did provide normal break periods that included unrestricted bathroom access. Of course, they said too many employees were lounging in the bathroom instead of working. So they set up this extra system to police bathroom activity outside of scheduled breaks. It was perfectly legal.
While federal rules grant you the right to access bathroom facilities, it gets no more specific than that. Americans enjoy many rights, but going potty at work is not among them. If the employer thinks your bathroom usage is hurting productivity, they can take action to limit it. If a complaint arises, it is judged case by case.
Paid Holidays are a Right
In the industrialized world, the USA is the most restrictive when it comes to holidays. Yes, 77 percent of businesses offer employees some kind of vacation time, but only because they want people to work for them instead of just giving it to them. But if 77 percent of companies offer paid time off, that means 23 percent – almost one out of every four – give absolutely no paid time off. And as most of us know, when you decide to utilize that paid time, you have to jump through hoops to do so – asking for permission (once again, back to grade school and the whims of other people), and detailed plans on how your work will get done while you’re gone.
How bad is that? Kuwait, not exactly known as the most people-friendly countries in the world, offers 30 days of paid vacation a year. An entire freaking month. Plus, this is separate from the 13 paid holidays you also get. So in Kuwait, you get paid for staying home 43 days a year. One-thousand-thirty-two hours off. Amazing.
There are close to 60 countries where workers get at least 30 paid days off per year. Some will argue that the work environment in Kansas is so much better than in other places that those 30 days don’t make up the difference. That may be true. But still, it’s quite harsh when you consider that at most companies, you have to be there for 20 years to get 20 days of vacation.