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The group of small business owners sat around a table talking earnestly about what helps and what hurts their efforts to stay in business and maintain the jobs they have previously created.
During the current recession, said one gentleman, he did everything he could to avoid layoffs in a construction-related company that had lost much business. He and other principals took no pay for several months. He knew he could not keep everyone on full time at full pay, so he explored alternatives. Could he cut back employees’ hours, keeping everybody but giving everybody some time off? Or just reduce their pay? Or put some employees on a contract rather than employee basis?
The consultants who advise him on employment law matters told him no. He would face serious liabilities if he did those things, possibly from the workers, possibly from the government. Eventually, he had to let some people go. They lost their jobs. The company lost the value of their knowledge, training, and established working relationships.
The employment laws developed in the 20th century to protect workers from exploitation are now clashing head-on with new realities of the 21st century.
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