A view from my side.
Lately there has been much press about just how much “control” an employer can exert over their employees and/or potential employees. According to an article on Reuters, demands have even been made for Facebook logins and passwords. Fortunately, legislatures across the country are taking steps to ban such demands, but that an employer thinks it has the right to even ask is disturbing.
Years ago, I worked, ever so briefly, for a school Superintendent that had some very rigid beliefs. And while it is one thing to “put your mark” on a school or a district, it is another to try to force his beliefs on his employees. One in particular was his belief that drinking alcohol was wrong and sinful. So strong was his belief that he even stated, in an open meeting with district employees, that he did not want to see any of us drinking in public, to include when dining out. He was so opposed to drinking in public that he told us if he saw any of us drinking in a restaurant, he would either get up and leave, or not take a seat if he had yet to be seated.
Now, I completely respect his right to feel that way. But for him to use his position as Superintendent to warn his employees against having a glass of wine, a mug of beer, or any other spirit with our dinner crossed a line. While he claimed he had a right to establish an expectation for “moral behavior” for school employees, it is a slippery slope that can set a dangerous precedent. What if he were to have told everyone to attend a certain church? What if he told everyone to vote in a particular party’s primary? What if…you get the idea.
Fortunately, very few people paid his edict much attention. I often enjoy a drink with my food when I dine out. I do not always order alcohol, but it is my choice to do so where it is legally served. I made it a point to have a glass of wine or a beer at every restaurant I ate at in that town. The few times I saw our Superintendent walk in, I made a point of taking a sip of whatever it was. I did not raise my glass, stand and call his name, but I wanted to been seen drinking it if he happened to look my way as he walked in.
While he insisted that such announcements showed him to be a strong leader, it actually weakened his position in many ways. Many of the employees in the district openly wondered “who the hell he thought he was”. By taking such a stand, he lost the respect of many of his employees. I left that district just a few short months after he was hired. I won’t work for someone I don’t respect and finding another job in my field was pretty easy at the time.
Every time I read an article about some corporation poking their fingers into the private lives of their employees, I always think back to this Stupid Superintendent. In times such as these, when jobs can be harder to come by and harder to hold on to, it is easier for employers to make such demands. In fear of losing their jobs, employees are more willing to tolerate such behavior. Fortunately, there are people out there that will take a stand against such moves by their employers and usually, cooler heads (and attorneys) prevail.