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Omaha man ‘liked’ a tweet, then lost his job (omaha.com)
691 points by Shivetya on Mar 23, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 518 comments



The meat of the story is that Omaha man worked for Marriott hotels on customer support. Their support system allows their agents to like tweets.

The man appears to have inadvertently clicked like on a tweet while dealing with a large influx of support messages (due to a promo going on) thanking Marriott for listing Tibet as its own country which was a huge no-no due to Mariott's presence in China. Execs fire him as a part of their "sorry China" grovelling.

My kneejerk is to believe fired man. I've clicked like on things by accident browsing regular Twitter, never mind a support system designed to skim through hundreds of requests. Unfortunately belief isn't going to restore the job, this is another lesson for the pile that companies will axe employees over fixing (heck, explaining) a problem with the system. It's the cheapest option.

If liking a tweet will infuriate the largest (by population) country in the world, maybe $14/hr support agents shouldn't be able to one-click like tweets.

Another question does occur - if it's such a big deal for them, why is/was Tibet listed as its own country in their system that prompted the liked tweet in the first place?


Yea it's weird I feel like liking the tweet should pale in comparison to whoever listed Tibet as its own country. Seems like the mistake was listing tibet as a country on the survey and they fired a guy just because he put attention to it by liking a tweet (and was thus used as a sacrifice).

If I were China, I'd probably demand the firing of someone more consequential than a random minimum wage worker who had little to deal with the insult in the first place.


If you were in China would you really find it insulting that Tibet is considered by some to be its own country? It was invaded, and I can’t really see any other way to characterise what happened.


That depends if you think some Americans would be offended if you claimed Hawaii was its own country. It was also invaded and then forcibly gentrified and colonized. That's not to even mention the entirety of the United States. It's not so much if China has legitimate claims on Tibet so much as it's the pot calling the kettle black. The greatest conquerer on Earth and its modern beneficiaries telling another country to give up territory and sovereignty.


> That depends if you think some Americans would be offended if you claimed Hawaii was its own country

Of course not. They'd just ignore you. Not force you to suspend online sales to your 300 stores in the country. Why is there always someone willing to twist things into a pretzel in search of moral equivalence when it comes to China or Russia? There's no pot. There's no kettle. Using your leverage to force a company to stop doing business for a liked tweet is uncool for any country.


>Of course not. They'd just ignore you. Not force you to suspend online sales to your 300 stores in the country.

That's because there's no threat to them. If the situation was tenser, and there was some open controversy about Hawaii, with another superpower taking sides, they could do all that, and worse.


For a liked tweet? No, not even in a tense situation. We have to stop excusing government sanctions for something like a liked tweet. It's a dumb equivalence and harms the real point by deflecting.


>For a liked tweet? No, not even in a tense situation.

It's not the "liked tweet" itself, it's having come into attention, people demanding something to be done, media blowing it, etc.

Tons of similar gaffes go by without an incident as well...


Palestine is a good example, it can be politically detrimental to have the wrong opinion


What they did was an economic sanction and it is something the US does engage in to further political goals. The US uses similar tactics to force countries to comply with US drug laws, punish Russia for invading Ukraine, as well as other less noble political goals. It’s often in the form of sanctions but can also be in the form of withholding aid from poor countries or embargoes. They do this to many central american countries to uphold inane policies that make no sense for the welfare of those countries except to serve American political interests.

There’s really no good reason for the decades long embargo against Cuba except that the US considered it an enemy all nations partake in to pursue political goals.


Not just about what they did, it's also about why. It was a liked tweet.

(Why bring up US foreign policy again? Many don't agree with those decisions either and it's unrelated.)


I’m simply replying to your comment that America do in fact enact policies to further its own political goals all the time. In fact the US is a frequent offender of doing so to influce foreign countries while at least China usually focuses on itself.

If you meant just the American people, well not all Chinese side with China on the Tibet issue, but most do. But then that’s personal opinions and you can’t really blame them for having a personal opinion.

Using political leverage to force an outcome is inevitable, and frankly, discussing right or wrong on the matter is pointless as you cannot ever achieve politically neutral policy. All policy is enacted with a certain goal so it cannot be neutral by definition (unless your policy does nothing).

Either China wants Tibet as part of its territory or it doesn’t. In either case it will use its political powers to further whatever the goal is.


Whatever your views on US foreign policy, I'm not really sure you can equate invading a country with liking a tweet or making a mistake on a web form.


The government of the United States does not demand that mainland China relinquish control of Tibet. Nor does the USA insist on censoring mainland controversies or on punishing foreigners who say inconvenient things. This difference is essential.

You are free to criticize America. People, including politicians, regularly do so. China, despite claiming to be a strong, ascendant power, is remarkably sensitive when it comes to such fictions as there being one China or the historicity of their nine-dash line.

Also, though the USA certainly was a conquerer -- few powers on this violent planet were forged in peace -- it's also the foremost defender of the modern rules-based order. There are Hawaii and the Mexican-American war in its past, but there are also Japan and Micronesia closer to today.


> You are free to criticize America. People, including politicians, regularly do so.

Legally you are, yes. However it’s not seen that way but a large swath of people including the current president - the NFL kneeling/sitting controversy being an example.


Just because free speech is not without consequence, does not mean it is illegal to do so. Every single person in the US who has spoken out has gone through some jail time. Most of them have been vindicated only in history or extremely long after the initial events.


I'm a bit concerned what the world is going to be like once they assume leadership from the US.


Marriott didn’t criticize China so much as enacted policy that China didn’t feel served its political interests and policies. As a result they retaliated by denying them the market and money making opportunity that they do not have a entitlement to in the first place.

It’s no different from say US enforcing political policies such as the Nixon era drug wars against black and other poor minorities, sanctions against Russia to deter their invasion of Ukraine, US withdrawal from the TPP, denying aid in retaliation to Central American countries if they refuse to enact anti-drug law or specific policies (policies that only really serve the short term interests of the politician in office).

Denying a foreign company certain rights is not inherently any different from a preferential tariff such as the ones Trump is trying to enact. Doing so for political purposes—well that’s the whole point of the government: every move it makes is politically or policy motivated.


This would all be fine if it weren't based on a false premise that all actions are equivalent. Proportionality matters. I may not agree with it, but if this was based on, say, Marriott issuing a statement calling for a free Tibet, then it would at least be a little more proportionate. However this was a liked tweet and an error in a web form, swiftly corrected.


But how do WTO rules and China's claim to have a free and open market fit into the discussion?


>or on punishing foreigners who say inconvenient things

I wonder how many people are/will be affected by current DHS policy…[0].

Also like another comment here said, with the passage of the CLOUD act (which mostly legalizes behavior that of which was already being engaged in), the US can get foreign powers to act on their behalf if they so choose.

As an US citizen who has been living abroad for almost two years now, I'm not here to point out equivalencies, but state that technology will be leveraged by those who see fit regardless of the country or if one believes in their "foremost defender of the modern rules-based order".

>This difference is essential.

Only if one believes it to be so (and I suspect many people do), though the ones who seem to suffer most will be the poor and the marginalized, and will continue to be so long after when the war drums eventually stop and the battles breakout…

[0] https://papersplease.org/wp/2018/01/05/new-dhs-policy-on-dem...


> The greatest conquerer on Earth and its modern beneficiaries

What'd England and the commonwealth do now?


Maybe he's talking about Mongolia. :-)


or Alexander, 'the Great'


Not sure exactly when the modern age began, but pretty sure it wasn't ancient Greece.


He said "modern beneficiaries", not that the conquest itself was modern.

Maybe he was talking about Spain, Portugal, or the Netherlands.


I’m talking about Americans and everyone here benefitting from the fruits of the conquest. We exist because it happened, and to deny it is to deny our own existence.


You used the words: "the greatest conquerer" - it's just this that's doubted, not that the conquest happened.

Historically, in terms of area, or percentage of (world) population involved, there are strong contenders for the title, other than the one you mention. Not to mention, some capital cities are stuffed with treasures they looted a millennium ago - so if you mean "the amount of conquest summarized over history" then your "greatest conqueror" doesn't seem that special at all.


They were the greatest. Now they’re primarily for money laundering.


"That depends if you think some Americans would be offended if you claimed Hawaii was its own country."

Do you have an actual example of someone being fired for claiming that Hawai'i was its own country?

Edit: apparently you don't. Your analogy does not hold water.


I think the Hawaii example was rhetorical, but you can find examples of Americans being fired for supporting BDS movement or speaking against Israel occupation of Palestine, we even have laws against doing business with BDS supporters in some states. So we do evidently care enough about these sorts of disputes to make laws about them.


"I think the Hawaii example was rhetorical"

And my point was that it was a very poor analogy.

"we even have laws against doing business with BDS supporters in some states"

Link? I see some laws against state governments doing business with those companies, but nothing that says that a private business (like Marriott) has to fire supporters of that movement, nor do we have laws that prohibit those companies from doing business at all.


US government banned contractors using China-manufactured electronics.

You can make up all sorts of excuses about how it’s for national security, but from the otherside it looks like the US is simply unfairly preventing a Chinese company from competing in a foreign market that it has not natural entitlement to.

Whether or not the reasons for it are true, the reality is it has real financial consequences for Chinese electronics companies, even if they are fully legitimate and with good intentions. Thus it’s an example of how the US is potentially using political power to suppress foreign influence.

Here is a link for your convenience too: https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/12/us-government-agencies-zte...


That's a completely different case than preventing private companies from engaging with BDS supporters. If you were talking about the government preventing Holiday Inn from taking reservations from BDS supporters, that might fit, but you're talking about a proposed bill to prevent the government from doing business with contractors using foreign electronics systems. That bill is very unlikely to pass, by the way.


Reasons matter.


We have basically the entire state of texas doing that

As well as our most notable internal conflict was trying to split the country in half, and you still have a good chunk of supporters for it in the south. And the only real thing that offends people about that support is the racist underpinnings; and a common joke is that California should split off and form its own country (and take its politics with it).

It's hard for me to imagine that many would care if hawaiians also joined in and started claiming sovereignty.

Perhaps when they actually attempt to split off, but until then


Offended? Maybe. But 1st Amendment means that you are allowed to do that in America, generally speaking.

Case in point: our current President called the last President a Muslim born in Kenya. People take offense, but overall its an understanding that speech is free in the USA.


As an American, I wouldn’t be offended if a Chinese person suggested that all non Native Americans should leave America. I wouldn’t think that would be reasonable, although I would acknowledge that we could do much more to help rectify the situation that still exists today. I would likewise be not offended (but might feel slightly uncomfortable) if someone told me that California, my home state, should be returned to Mexico.

But do you really think it is so unrealistic that many Americans would be offended by such a statement? Let’s not pretend it is somehow surprising that people might be very insulted by being told what they consider part of their country should be returned, especially by foreigners.


I think more generally, and particularly on social media, we need to cease to take people "being offended" seriously. The world is full of professional offendees, taking offense at any small pretext and storming social medias in revenge. The idea that anyone can set an arbitrary line anywhere he wants (and often after the fact), pretending to be offended and demanding apologies or reparation is dangerous and unhealthy. Anyone who entertains these professional offendees is locking himself into a position of perpetual apologies and self-censorship.

The article does mention that twitter is blocked in China, and therefore that the social media storm is most likely not genuine.


"But do you really think it is so unrealistic that many Americans would be offended by such a statement? "

You can't control whether someone is offended.

You can control whether you fire someone because someone else is offended.


You can control whether you respond to someone being offended. There’s a very long tail for offense and companies (and individuals) can work to recognize that responding to someone feeling offended (or claiming to) should be rare. Although it’s hard to differentiate when 100 people tweeting #imoffended is just 100 people or 100 people part of 1 million.


> If you were in China would you really find it insulting that Tibet is considered by some to be its own country?

This is the GP I am replying to. I don’t believe the employee should have been fired.


There are activists who argue that all of the southwestern US should be returned to Mexico. And indeed, the idea generally isn't that unpopular in Mexico. For what that's worth.


Californian here. Why would that be “offensive”?


Relevant PG essay:

http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

"The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed."

At present, the idea that California might be returned to Mexico or that all non-native-Americans might be kicked out of America is sufficiently ridiculous that nobody will take you seriously. Thus, there's no reason to get offended. You can say whatever you want, you're just a nutcase.

That China gets mad whenever you suggest that Tibet become its own country or when you mention Tiananmen Square indicates that it worries its citizens might actually take you seriously...


I think pg in that essay makes the assumption that morality is absolute, and we should always be questioning the thoughts of ourselves on the basis of where we are now. But the fact is morality isn't absolute; he falls too much into the positivist trap of believing in humanistic perfection, while reality is much stickier than that. Ultimately, people believe in something, and whether or not that is right (to you), that's what's true to them. Qualms about moral relativism aside, you have to at the very least accept what people believe to be able to level with them. I can definitely accept what pg says about moralism insomuch as it 's a force to be questioned, but that's a morality as is any other. Ultimately, morality rests in the collective conscience, even of a nation, and what China thinks is bad is bad for China. Maybe we don't think so, but that's us anyways.


I don't think you interpreted what I was saying correctly. Why should I be offended at the idea of the idea of my state joining my state seriously joining the Mexican federation?


It's an addition to the conversation, not a response. I'm not saying you should be offended, I'm providing context to this and previous replies so that other people who read this subthread can understand why California joining Mexico is a different situation from Tibet splitting from China and so responses differ.


Well for one the analogy is more like a New Yorker taking offense at the prospect of California (or Texas) joining Mexico. That puts it in a different light, although it’s stull not comparable to he forced displacement and ethnic inequalities that has happened and is happening in Tibet.

I don’t think PG really knows what he is talking about with respect to Tibet China relations if he thinks that analogy holds...


Maybe not now. But 100 years ago, it certainly would. And that's about where China is now, regarding Tibet, and such autonomous regions as Xinjiang. It takes time for opinions to go from offensive to laughable.


I'm not laughing. I'm seriously confused as to why I'm supposed to be offended at the prospect of becoming mexican. Is that supposed to be lower status or something? I can't think of a reason here that would be offensive which doesn't boil down to underlying racism or anachronistic nationalism.


Well yes, "racism or anachronistic nationalism". There you have it. You're unusual, arguably.



I bet all the Trump voters would be pissed.


It's not insulting. It's a threat to their sovereignty. It's comparable to if lots of map makers changed the borders of the US to give Texas to Mexico, and it was acknowledged by international companies operating there and it was taught to kids in school. Eventually, by massive popular belief, it would be nearly impossible to retain it under US control because everyone would think it's obviously part of Mexico, including vtoers. Of course there's no risk of that happening in the US so they don't have to police it. For recently taken territories though, the position is weaker and easier to lose, so the new owners have to control the popular belief about whose it is.


So what's your stance on Hawaii and Puerto Rico?

Or for that matter, Florida, Texas, Florida, California, New Mexico, and Arizona?

Or for that matter the whole of the US land where Native American tribes lived.


Texas, after revolting and winning independence from Mexico, chose to join the US after a short jaunt as an independent nation.

The rest, yea, pretty much forcefully taken in one way or another.


Seems like this was the Mexican's mistake: "In the hopes that an influx of settlers could control the Indian raids, the bankrupt Mexican government liberalized immigration policies for the region. Finally able to settle legally in Texas, Anglos from the United States soon vastly outnumbered the Tejanos. Most of the immigrants came from the southern United States. Many were slave owners, and most brought with them significant prejudices against other races, attitudes often applied to the Tejanos. Mexico's official religion was Roman Catholicism, yet the majority of the immigrants were Protestants who distrusted Catholics"


The Chinese Communist Party (note: this is not "China") doesn't demand firing of anyone. This is just Marriott's way of sucking up to the Chinese Communist Party and management dissociating themselves from their mistakes


It's purely Marriott's way of being jerks. They could just as easily have said they fired someone and then left it at that, there was no real need to actually fire the guy.


> The Chinese Communist Party (note: this is not "China") doesn't demand firing of anyone.

If you believe the article, that is literally what they did.


Thank you for saying this. I was so confused. Like why is this guy responsible for this? It was someone obviously higher up who added Tibet as its own country...


The mistake was letting people who don't accept that Tibet is its own country send death threats to you and kowtowing to them. It's enabling their bullshit.


I'm from China and I do. The answer is in the culture for over two thousand years that the country is better to be under one ruler so less war between countries fighting each other. Probably still better to have one ruler to fuck up the citizen before any modern democratically system stabilized.


I totally believe "the UI sucks argument" as well. I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally liked something on Instagram because of the stupid double tap a photo = like, not zoom feature.

Instagram is a piece of software millions of people use every day. I've designed software that 5 - 100 people use a day, and I can tell you the UI is going to suck if you have a data architect design the UI for your CRUD application. I'm sure the UI sucked on Mariott's app, I'd bet my life savings on it.


I've actually had this exact problem with Instagram.

  1. My teenage daughter shows me picture of a girl she knows but doesn't like.
  2. I don't have my glasses so I double-tap to try to zoom in a bit.
  3. My daughter screams that the girl now knows that she was looking at her picture.
  4. I quickly double-tap again to un-like the photo.
  5. My daughter glares at me because she knows that the damage is already done.
In fact, I can relate to the guy in the original story. Fortunately, I only earned my daughters short lived wrath and didn't lose my job.


This happens a lot on the reddit mobile app. Sometimes I'm just browsing and out of nowhere I see an orange upvote or a purple downvote that I likely trigger just by scrolling to the comments.

It also happened to me once or twice that I was looking at the Facebook profile of someone and then 2 hours later I got a notification saying that that person accepted my friendship request. Somehow I mistakenly sent those requests.

At least for the latter, I've always thought there should be some impedance to avoid this. Like slide to send request or some other small friction interaction.


It sounds like Marriott wanted to be in a position to say someone had been fired, and he was offered up.

Either way, pretty shitty on Marriott's part.


It should have been the guy that allowed all low level employees access to the official Marriott twitter account.


Or maybe not fire anyone and just ignore silly twitter temper tantrums.


I understand that this was not just a twitter tantrum, but a major disruption of business: inability to book online in China, in fact causing huge losses.


>It should have been the guy that allowed all low level employees access to the official Marriott twitter account

Where in the article did it say that all low-level employees have access to the official Twitter account?

The employee in question had access because it was literally his job to reply to customers on their official Twitter account:

The Marriott customer care manager intended to spend his eight-hour overnight shift doing what he always did: helping hundreds of Marriott customers around the world as they shot complaints, questions and reward-point requests to the hotel chain’s official Twitter accounts


Surely they are using some overlay tool (tweetdeck, etc) instead of direct Twitter access. The tool should have limited or used some approval process for "likes" if that was viewed as risky.


> If liking a tweet will infuriate the largest (by population) country in the world, maybe $14/hr support agents shouldn't be able to one-click like tweets.

I think this is the most pragmatic thing mentioned yet.

Social media accounts are a real-time, globally visible way to communicate with the world. Treat it with respect. If you care about subtle mess-ups then have a review system or something.

I'm guessing the ideal PR person running the account is:

* educated in how that platform works (aka, young and social media savvy)

* experienced in the plethora of ways PR can go wrong (or well for that matter). "I know this looks innocent, but it's best to remain quiet on issues of X", for example.

and I'd guess that's a sweet spot that's probably hard to fill with one person.


>Another question does occur - if it's such a big deal for them, why is/was Tibet listed as its own country in their system that prompted the liked tweet in the first place?

The survey was outsourced to an outside company.

>And even in this specific case, where a low-level Marriott employee in Omaha clicked “like” on a tweet thanking Marriott for a survey designed by a third-party vendor, the hotel chain got in big trouble.

Marriott clearly has zero training on geopolitical issues so the third party vendor didn't have a template to follow, likely they just Googled "list of countries in the world" and copied the list. Marriott needs to be providing a list of countries to all outside vendors.


"Country" is a loose concept anyway. A country isn't necessary a sovereign state, since places like England or Aruba are considered countries. If it wasn't for the whole offending China thing, few people would care if Tibet was classified as a country or as a "historical region", as Wikipedia has it.


I can't help but feel the real problem here is China. Those death threats and angry tweats were likely coming from China employed shills. Such a ticking time bomb the CPC.


> My kneejerk is to believe fired man

I think that frames the issue incorrectly. The question is, whether he clicked it intentionally or not, he should not be fired for saying something the government of China dislikes (much less clicking like on what someone else said). China should not be extending censorship to Omaha.


He didn't even say anything! He showed the tiniest possible amount (1 bit!) of support for his employer's action


Sometimes, your service to the company consists of being thrown under the bus.

The older I get, the more I find the prematurely cynical people I grew up around had it half-right.

And the naively, or ignorantly, or cluefully -- I still don't quite know which -- happy people I grew up around, had the other half of that right: Do your own thing, enjoy it as much as you can, and walk away from the negativity.

Maybe if we could do enough of the latter, places like Marriott would never get the traction to step all over their employees.

As for China, well, I'm a bit older. The people I met who got over here from China, tended not to go back.

Take that as you will.


I don't think it was such a big deal for them until China told them that that it was a big deal and punished them accordingly until they fixed stuff according to China's liking. Everything that happened after (including firing the guy) is just fallout to clean up an issue that they didn't predict, and they're taking steps to do what China wants (like not listing Tibet as a country anymore) in order to keep operating there.

Simplest answer is often the best answer. If the survey had never happened with Tibet as a country, the tweet would never have happened, and then the whole scenario would never have come to light. It's easy to predict this in hindsight. I honestly think people didn't think about this in the past. Whether or not it's right is an entirely different question.


"If liking a tweet will infuriate the largest (by population) country in the world, maybe $14/hr support agents shouldn't be able to one-click like tweets.

Another question does occur - if it's such a big deal for them, why is/was Tibet listed as its own country in their system that prompted the liked tweet in the first place?"

> I really hope this doesn't become the moral of all this.

It's two very rare mistakes in a row. One listing Tibet, which actually got noticed. Another was the misclick, which also got noticed.

But it would be extremely costly if we suddenly had a confirmation dialog on low level employees liking tweets, or if every form drop-down needs to be approved by senior management.


And let this be a lesson to EVERYONE who works in Marriotts.

This is the very definition of "throwing under a bus". This is how fast Marriott (in the US of A) will throw you under the first bus that comes by.

This is how Marriott respects the individuals and has the capacity to handle a sensitive situation.


yeah. and I can't help but think that pretty much any US corporation doing business in China will throw employees and a whole lot more under the bus if they're told to do so in order to retain market access. is this consistent with the meaning of "free and open access"?


> Another question does occur - if it's such a big deal for them, why is/was Tibet listed as its own country in their system that prompted the liked tweet in the first place?

Even worse is that the listing came from a 3rd party survey firm. The employee is paying the price for what was ultimately them fouling up.


Even in a purely profit-driven mindset, as a Marriott executive in a pinch on this decision, I would give a sizeable severance and thats it.


Are we really expecting social media employees to be familiar with and adept at geopolitics?


Not kissing China's feet in this case could have cost Marriot many millions of dollars, so yes.

Welcome to the future of humanity, I guess we'll see if everyone is so casual about this type of thing when it's them who crossed the petulant monster child the West has created.


Well, if it'll cost Marriott so much money that they're concerned about it, perhaps they should be hiring someone with more such knowledge at a higher salary.


The real story is he has no employment rights because he's in America and he's "at will."

They can dismiss him because they don't like his lunch selection that day and he has no rights.

That's at will employment. This type of situation plays out all over the country everyday.


Or the real story is how much businesses kowtow to the Chinese government and enable their human rights abuses. I would be quite happy to see Marriott face blowback in the US and other parts of the world over this as people show their support for a free Tibet. Letting China browbeat businesses into submission for the privilege of operating in that market isn't a good thing and more businesses need to be made to decide between China and the rest of the world. Otherwise, the Chinese government will continue to get away with this.

But it was the Chinese government that blew a single like out of proportion and threatened Marriott with millions of dollars in lost business. Marriott's response to scapegoat and fire the individual to appease China makes complete sense so long as we continue to allow companies to get away with that behavior. It won't stop until we make an example out of one or two companies to show that they at least need to consider the financial ramifications of appeasement too.


Sometimes a story captures lots of little elements of the world we live in all at once.


That's crazy talk, every story is about one thing, everything has one clear reason, and there's only one flavour of ice cream, and it's raspberry.


Raspberry chocolate.


>Or the real story is how much businesses kowtow to the Chinese government and enable their human rights abuses.

That's part of the story.

It would be the main story if the workers having no rights in the US wasn't much worse for them, and impacted them 100x on their lives, than whatever their businesses do abroad.


No, I disagree. that may be a story, too, but it's not this story. This story is about horrible situation of workers' rights in the US. It's pretty much a house made problem.


It seems strange to me to think unfavorably about US workers’ rights, then about China in the same minute.

About your point, if an international incident isn’t a legitimate reason to fire someone, I don’t know what is. And by extension, what kind of rights you are advocating.

It might be more appropriate to take action against the system that let the error happen. But there are two ways to reduce errors. 1) improve the system, and 2) raise standards for the employees using the system. Cost/benefit analysis ensues.


Really depends on if one thinks his being fired to be the appropriate response. If (like you seem to think) it is, then sure, there is no issue about workers' rights here.

If you tend to believe him that this was an honest mistake, or even just that there's sufficient doubt, then the conclusion would probably be that he shouldn't have been fired, and his having been fired becomes a question of "how could this happen". And to this the (my) answer is "insufficient workers' rights, allowing a company to take an easy way out at the cost of an individual".


> Letting China browbeat businesses into submission for the privilege of operating in that market isn't a good thing

I don't think "letting" is a very accurate word in this case — Marriott could pull out of China (likely at a loss) but the company doesn't want to because it would be financially stupid. In fact, as a public company Marriott is mandated to act in its shareholders' best financial interests.


"as a public company Marriott is mandated to act in its shareholders' best financial interests"

The reality: You can't take shareholder money out on the front lawn and set it on fire

What the internet thinks: Company not only can do insert shitty thing here but MUST do insert shitty thing here because they have a fiduciary duty.

The problem is that the internet perception of reality is semi fictional. They damn well could have simply stated that they as a company don't take a personal position on Tibet but wont be bullied and faced near zero chance of successful lawsuit even if investors took a short term bath due to business in china.

To refute this simply provide examples of investors who successfully sued because of decisions they didn't agree with an explain how this situation is similar.


The recourses available in court are few and far between against officers of the company as a shareholder. That's not how this gets resolved or what the officers are concerned with. The shareholder power is to vote in a different board of directors that will do what you as a shareholder want done -- virtue signaling against China included. The best example of that, and the amount of power it actually takes is probably Carl Icahn.


> In fact, as a public company Marriott is mandated to act in its shareholders' best financial interests.

Mandated by what law? What if Marriott determines that long-term goodwill in their brand is what's in their shareholders' best financial interests?


It gets abused for sure, but more often, businesses get to fire bad employees, and this means they are more likely to give some people a chance who wouldn't get one otherwise.

Hiring in certain countries is very risky, because it is so costly to fire a bad employee.


More often, you assert. But have you got any evidence to say so?


The shape of hiring and separation costs in France, Labour Economics (2009)

http://www.crest.fr/ckfinder/userfiles/files/pageperso/krama...

It costs roughly $9000 to fire a French employee for "cause" or "economic reasons."

The Impact of Firing Costs on Turnover and Unemployment: Evidence from the Colombian Labour Market Reform http://web.worldbank.org/archive/website00960A/WEB/PDF/KUGLE...

Conclusion: reducing firing costs reduced unemployment.



Can confirm, I run a business. The biggest expense to my company are the employees. All the regulatory requirements and bullshit that comes along with it, not to mention the risk of an employee suing the company for whatever reason. There's a lot of risk hiring employees, that's why I try to minimize the number of employees I have to hire, whenever possible.


Every company tries to minimize the number of employees. But the fact remains that the employee always takes on more risk, as being fired at the wrong time, say during the crisis we just had, might end up in homelessness. Yet companies love to pretend they are the ones taking the risk and need the right to abuse employees, fire then at will, don't oay a living wage and all that.


That's because they are taking a risk. If you make it harder to fire people, companies simply won't hire them in the first place. The harder it is to fire someone, the more dangerous it is to hire them. The more cautious employers will be about hiring in the first place. This is a real problem in countries that have strict firing laws.


>simply won't hire them in the first place

Except that is simply not true, and very easily proven false simply by showing countries with actual employee protection and unions like e.g. Denmark.


It's easy to fire employees in Denmark. That's one reason why it's economy and employment rates are quite good for Europe, and while you think it proved your point, it's evidence of the opposite. See [1][2][3].

If you're interested in the academic research, someone above in the thread posted research links on the relationship between ease-of-firing and employers' willingness to hire. If you find those unsatisfying, this is a well-researched (empirically, not just theoretically) and uncontroversial topic among economists, so you should be able to find much more research.

[1] Country summary for Denmark economic freedom: https://www.heritage.org/index/country/denmark

[2] Country comparison: https://www.heritage.org/index/visualize?cnts=denmark&type=1...

[3] NYT article covering Denmark's ease of firing: https://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/15/business/worldbusiness/th...

> "The Danish system creates a flexible labor market," the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions said in an official document. "Danish companies are more willing to hire new employees in times of economic revival than their European competitors, who have trouble letting off workers when the economy goes downhill again."

> Note that the source of this last comment is the country's largest labor union confederation, a sign of the consensus surrounding the easy-to-fire policy.


Except the reality is that most people are in unions, covering them quite well (around 1.8 million[0] out of 2.7 million[1] in the job market).

Many jobs have a firing period of 1, 3 and 6 months, rising with the time you've been there. Sickness is a legal absence. Maternity and paternity leave is a legal requirement along with at least 5 weeks of vacation a year.

[0] https://www.business.dk/arbejdsmarked/flere-bliver-medlem-af...

[1] https://www.dst.dk/da/Statistik/nyt/NytHtml?cid=24821


Yes, but their labor market is still more flexible than other european countries, which is why their companies are more willing to hire.


It is not black and white though, I'm in sweden. Companies will of course hire out of necessity, but strive as much as possible to not do it - outsource, consultants, temp workers, move abroad etc etc


But they do that too everywhere. I'm Norwegian. I've been a co-founder of companies both in Norway and the UK. I see little evidence that it makes all that much difference. On one hand you do take a somewhat greater risk in terms of hiring in Norway, but conversely the ability to fire much more easily does not get exercised much. Of course that's no help for those who end up being affected.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, in Norway not only is it harder to fire someone, but terminating an employment contract is normally with 3 months mutual notice. So you risk bad hires, but you also don't risk essential staff members disappearing overnight very often, as serving out the 3 months notice is normal and expected. That makes companies with small teams less vulnerable in that respect.

Overall I don't really know if it makes much difference to employers. I hasn't seemed like that for me. But it makes a big difference for employees.


The economist must consider both the seen and the unseen. Yes, people have jobs in Denmark 🇩🇰, but there are employment positions and opportunities that do not exist because firing regulations price them out of the market.


Possibly true, though nonexistent jobs must surely be a difficult thing to count.

But at will employment also imposes economuc costs, which economists don't really care to count, like economic security, health and psychological well being, mutual respect between companies and their public, and the opportunities to do stupid image damaging life-harmful shite like Marriot did to this man.


I’m sympathetic to the person in the story. Firing over such a slight, possibly inadvertent, infraction seems excessive, and that makes me suspect we don’t know the whole story.

As much racket as people have made in this thread about at-will status in the U.S., the truth is more moderate. Not all states have at-will employment. Even in those that do, there are protected classes. The former Marriott employee might easily file an age-discrimination lawsuit, for example.

But again, consider the unseen. Marriott’s management has created a possible advantage for their competitors. The man has been given his moment in the limelight, a fantastic opportunity to better himself and his situation.


Indeed that is true. But stories like this have emotional salience, because they happened to real people. The jobs that didn't get created in the first place don't have that same resonance, because they're for theoretical people. But the harm is no less real. And the important question is that we at least try to empirically evaluate the question of which is worse, rather than simply indexing on the emotional resonance of anecdotes like this one.


Yeah slavery jobs tend to disappear where proper worker rights are enforced. This is not the middle ages anymore.


Aw shucks, you’ve uncovered my conspiracy to return to the Middle Ages. Next time I’ll have to use a double-secret decoder ring!


The effect of workforce excesive protection is not the same on individual companies as on a country as a whole.

Individual companies won't hire if some law hits them specifically, the same as if they're cash strapped, lost a big customer or some raw materials they need raise their price.

For a country it's loss of competitiveness and more long term. The questions are more like: can we as a country afford this law? is individual suffering worth the wealth create?


"Wealth created" though hides some of the reality. That 'wealth created' consists also in jobs for individuals. So, a better question might be: Is the suffering alleviated by allowing easy firing greater than the suffering alleviated by preventing easy firing? And that is an empirical economic question, which is difficult to answer.


If they “simply wouldn’t hire them in the first place” then they aren’t hiring the correct number of employees to maximize profit.


No, they instead choose to contact work out. Companies acquire labor to maximize profit, and regulations simply cause them to alter how they choose to obtain labor.


Can you provide a source (or data) that countries with stricter firing laws have more contract workers?


In countries with strict firing laws, this is only a problem for people like you who think business are entitled to do their will, and who see worker rights as obstacles to avoid.

Sigh


The entire issue is solved by probation periods - in UK my probation period was 6 months(during which I could be let go almost instantly for any reason) and after that it's a 3-month notice period - if the company wanted to let me go they would need to tell me at least 3 months in advance.


Your employees are also the profit generators so I would say it just comes with the territory.


Yes, but his point is that the harder the regulatory regime makes it to fire a bad employee, the fewer employees he will be willing to hire in the first place.


> Your employees are also the profit generators

Not universally true.


Considering how many times companies (usually run by young ambitious entrepreneurs) tried to pay me less than was promised, I'd say that employees take on quite a bit of risk too.


Agree completely. I got rid of my employees and now outsource everything. I'll never have another full-time employee ever again, if I need someone they are going to work as a consultant and get a 1099. For every guy like this one at Marriot, there are 1,000 who have genuine problems and need immediate firing.


Simply put, the harder it is to fire someone, the harder it will be to get a job.


No - because job availability depends on other considerations too.

Strangely, European countries with more humane employment laws don’t have correspondingly higher unemployment.


Depends on what you mean by "more humane" but U.S. has lower unemployment than OECD average, and European countries mostly have higher. In particular, France and Italy, known for how difficult it is to dismiss employees both individually and in masses, have high unemployment.

North European countries, where individual dismissal is difficult but mass dismissal (restructuring) is easy, fare better.

Germany, also with quite rigid employment laws, has low unemployment. As the dominant euro member it is basically running the monetary policy of the whole continent from its own needs.

Data: http://www.oecd.org/employment/ministerial/employment-in-fig...


It’s difficult to compare though, because of other factors. I believe the main one between countries like France and Italy and Germany is actually the Euro currency. It’s generally considered to be overvalued compared to France and Italy’s economies and undervalued compared to Germany’s. This makes Germany’s exports extremely competitive (at the expense of costlier imports) which has spurred on their ability to build up a huge manufacturing sector and run a massive trade surplus. France and Italy, on the other hand, enjoy cheaper imports at the expense of less competitive export industries, and unsurprisingly have a trade deficit. Differences in inflation rate, etc. between the Eurozone countries which might otherwise be balanced out by flexible exchange rates can’t be. Instead you get ‘internal devaluation’ which often means higher unemployment.

How federal systems get around this (like how all the states in the US using the same currency) is having the Federal Government tax and spend which can balance a lot of that out. Europe doesn’t have that, but eventually will have to or split back into individual currencies.

I believe this is also why gold standard systems have always failed eventually too - they require fixed exchange rates and even with rebalancing every now and then you can’t be as effective as a floating exchange rate.


I wonder why you get downvoted, because your comment is reasonable and in good tone even if one were to disagree. I happen to agree: of course the ease of dismissing employees is far from the only factor impacting employment in a country, and the euro structure of fiscal union without transfer union is clearly having problems.


You have the causality reversed. All of the things you enumerated are caused by the relative economic strengths of those economies. Those relative economic strengths are themselves caused by (in large part) by their regulatory regimes, particularly with respect to things like hiring and firing.


I’m not saying that regulatory environment doesn’t contribute, but the monetary aspect has an amplifying effect.

Germany’s trade surplus wouldn’t be able to be anywhere near as large without the rest of Western Europe pulling down the Euro exchange rate, and unemployment in the trade deficit countries likely wouldn’t be anywhere near as high without (from their perspective) Germany pulling the exchange rate high.


Ah, ya then I agree. The euro is a terrible mistake. You can't have a universal currency without a universal regulatory scheme, as Europe is discovering, and countries like Britain are resisting.


Germany also has developed more creative ways to deal with businesses' concerns, like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_time


At higher cost, less is demanded, and we tend to be loss averse. Driving up the perceived risk and thus the cost of firing bad employees unavoidably reduces the supply of jobs.

No good or service is perfectly inelastic — certainly not employees.


At higher cost, less is demanded, and we tend to be loss averse. Driving up the perceived risk and thus the cost of firing bad employers unavoidably reduces the supply of labor.


Indeed, it’s a two-way street, and that’s a good thing! As someone who got tired of the bureaucracy and lame policies, I took my labor and started my own company. It turns out that there is a noticeable minority of entrepreneurs, freelancers, and the self-employed around these parts.


Your assertion does not match the available data.


Came here to say exactly this. Barriers to exit are barriers to entry.


Bullshit. It is 100% advantage for the employee. Another employee and myself got laid off with 2 days notice from my former employer when they decided they were going to try to use less people. This is really annoying since I now am working as a temp for 6mo until I'm hired at another company and have to pay $400/mo out of pocket for insurance. This is in the biotech industry not the tech industry, maybe things are better there.


you mean for the employer?


Which is why many companies don’t hire many people in France

http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/knowledge/publications/14...


From what I've discussed with a lot of small businesses in France, workers-friendly laws are not an obstacle at all and unlike what you can see in the news, it plays almost no part in hiring (the laws are actually very reasonable and it all makes sense). The main obstacle is by far the high taxes.


This is incorrect. The French like to complain about their taxes, but it's not that different from California.

Employee protection regulation absolutely is problematic in France, because it over-protect relatively small groups at the expense of everyone else.

Small and medium-sized businesses are most affected by this. The transition from 40-ish people to 200-ish people is where the system really breaks down for French startups, because you are too big to benefit from the early-stage incentives, and not large enough to have political clout and bend the rules.


No different than California? Let's see. I don't know the numbers well in Cali but I know what I paid in France. I'd be curious to see what one would pay in California for a similar situation.

For a 100,000 euros income as a sole proprietorship, I paid 42% altogether. From those 42%, 7% were income tax, the remaining 35% were Charges sociales which covers healthcare, unemployment and retirement benefits. When French people complain about high taxes for hiring, they complain about the Charges sociales.

When ones is employed, most of the charges sociales are paid by the employer so do not come out of the employee salary (but it's the same in the end).

Honestly, it's not as big a problem in tech where wages are quite a bit lower than the US to account for the high charges sociales. But for smaller companies hiring low skilled labor or for jobs that are traditionally less paid (customer service, etc...), then it is rather high.

And to add insult to injury, the organisms that are charged with collecting those charges sociales are a complete clusterfuck. For the same year, they calculated 3 different amounts and none matched what my accountant had calculated. Closing down the business and getting out of the RSI's list took 2 years and repeated letters.

That said, I do agree with you regarding employee protection. Those regulations are helpful and should be there but there's a balance to be had between both extremes. It's the same with renter's protection in France which are way too biased against landlords and also create a lack of available apartment (coming back to France after living abroad for multiple years meant that I didn't qualify for the new unpaid rent insurance the government created and locked me out of a third of the apartments in the city I wanted to live.


100k euros would be ~$124k. At that salary if you are single your marginal tax rate would be 28% federal + 6.2% employee social security + 6.2% employer social security + 1.45% employee medicare + 1.45% employer medicare + 9.3% California income + 0.9% California disability insurance = 53.5%. This doesn't include unemployment taxes (California or federal) which might be another 0.3-0.5%. Though for real math, the employer paid taxes should increase the denominator when calculating rate. This number includes employer-paid taxes, but you were doing the same.

Of course effective tax rate is much lower than marginal tax rate. Effective federal income tax would be 17.1%, effective California income tax would be 6.9%. This would make effective total tax 40.2% (it was 42.6% in 2017, before Trump's tax cuts).


Note that you’re basing your calculations on a EUR 100k salary. His 100k are the sum of salary and employer-paid charges.

It’s true that California taxes are high. But it’s also true that France taxes are higher. And, to be fair, bring with them higher entitlements.


They're higher in France but not meaningfully higher, hence my comment "not that different". In fact if you take into account the cost of typical private employer-paid healthcare, the cost might actually be higher in California.

And I maintain that taxes are just not high enough to be a major obstacle to entrepreneurship in France - and yes I am aware of the dreaded "charges sociales". The reason we hear so much about them is because complaining about high taxes is easy and not controversial. Unlike the topic of employee protection, which is deeply polarizing.


Looking at the numbers, you do indeed have a point. It would be interesting to look at the taxes and charge sociales for different ranges of income but, for software startups who hire highly qualified people, taxes wouldn't be an obstacle compared to Malaysia.

And I very much doubt that availability of qualified hires is the obstacle either since the level of engineering Grandes Ecoles is quite good (I might be biased there)

So, I guess factors for why France is not doing that well re startups would be Employee Protection, Kafkaesque bureaucracy when dealing with creating the company and paying the said Charges Sociales and lack of capital.


I guess it depends on what do you consider meaningfully higher. And we didn't mention VAT: from your "post-tax" income, 20% of it will be paid as tax anyway when you buy products of services. A reduced rate is applied for some products/services but it should be kept in mind that France collects more money from VAT than from all the other taxes combined.


When you compare California tax you should then add the cost of private health insurance and retirement plan. I'd be be really surprised if the sum would come under 42%. It seems to me you're getting a very good deal! I would not have expected the 7% average income tax in particular, is it due to the sole proprietorship? Would you pay more if you directly invoiced as a person?


I’m in SF and get paid 13,750 USD a month and take home $8328 after taxes (no 401k deferral) which is roughly 39.5%.


100k euros in the uk is about £87k. That would be £77k gross wage or net of £52500 - about 40% total tax, do not excessively different to France.


The same position that got you £80-100k gross in London will only get you €40-50k gross in Paris.


If accurate (links?) that's a function of supply and demand rather than tax.


Third option. The supply and the demand doesn't exist because of taxes.


In California it probably adds up to 35% for an average person making $100k. Lots of variables like if you are married, have kids, own a house, etc. And health care benefits depends of the employer through the ACA is helping for the time being.


You might want to also talk to small businesses in France that deal with with unexpected setbacks -- from what I have observed, this usually ends up with a dead startup.


Not sure what your point is, if you have no money, you are screwed whatever the country.


In a similar situation, many US startups survive, after laying off of their half their at-will employees. That's my point.


I don't know what perception of the country you have but it's not the Soviet Union you know, having financial issue is a valid reason to fire employees. The US is the only developed place without reasonable workers laws so it's more an exception than anything else.


In the US, we call this argument "Red Baiting". Sure, let's accuse our opponent of starving 10s of millions of people to death!

When there's a financial problem, there are multiple differing opinions as to what's reasonable.

But if you want to call the US the "only developed place without reasonable worker laws", you might want to consider Denmark. Because they don't have the opinion you're propagating.


Yeah but in Denmark they compensate with very high unemployment benefits paying up to 90% of your previous salary for up to 2 years (that's much higher than in France), I don't recall any of that in the US.


Comparing to Denmark, which has way better employee laws than the US, is weird regardless because of the difference in unemployment benefits and general safety net there is in Denmark. Free hospitals, free education, etc.


"Free?"

The personal income tax rate averaged 60.45% in Denmark from 1995-2018.

Those are some of the most expensive "free" hospitals and universities I've ever heard of.


If you want that view, then I guess nothing is ever free then, and it's a pointless word, so why even bother?

Also, the tax is more complicated than simply throwing out 60.45%. It goes:

- From 0 - 50,000 you pay 0% tax - Everything above you first pay 8% work market tax, and then from the leftover you pay - the amount you earned above 50,000 - 498,900 is 37% - the amount you earn above 489,900 is taxed 52,2%

So you don't pay 60.45% of the full amount. Never. You pay progressively as you go up.

Monthly that'll go something like, deduct 5,000 form your paycheck, deduct 8% of the remaining amount, and then 38% of the remaining amount of that. Now, what you have left is the remaining amount + the 5,000 tax free. And of course a bit more of the amount if you go into the top tax bracket.


A french contract has 1 to 6 months of trial period. New employees can be fired anytime with 24h notice and zero protection.


Proponents of a largely deregulated labour market love talking about France. As someone working in Australia—a country with labour laws that are more sane than France (and definitely the U.S.)—instantly bringing up France just tends to stink of a false dichotomy and a line of rhetoric from people that try to justify the U.S.'s unjustifiably unfair labour laws.

I suggest that people who aren't familiar with Australia's labour laws have a quick look at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/. There are some problems, but it gives you an idea of practical alternatives to at-will employment.

Main relevant takeaways:

- Unfair dismissal legislation preventing employers from terminating employees unless they were grossly negligent, malicious, or didn't respond to performance management.

- Unfair dismissal claim protection for small businesses provided they can show evidence of following a (very short, fair, and easy to read) code with regards to the employee's termination.

It's extremely hard for me to empathise with business owners who openly have issues with these protections. At the very least, it's apparent that this dismissal wouldn't stand in Australia, as it shouldn't. Executives dismissing a support employee—out-of-touch executives who have probably forgotten how important an ongoing income stream is for people on low or even normal incomes—just to save face in a business relationship is in my opinion unjustifiable. Regardless of your view on labour laws I think most people agree on this.


I'm the GP who brought up this topic. I actually am American and now working at a managerial level in Australia. When I ran into trouble with someone on my team performing at a poor level, I was a bit exasperated with these regulations and how they required me to put him on a performance improvement plan rather than immediately dismiss. I was frustrated, but it forced me to talk it out with him. We did a bit of a reset and had a smoother period. Ultimately issues arose again, but he was able to find a new job in the meantime which is a much better fit for him and moved on amicably. It was a positive result for both parties, definitely not without some stress, but it was achieved because I was forced to have patience -- and we should have patience, because people aren't disposable.


Plenty of white collar businesses in the US use performance improvement plans. But that would be a ridiculous remedy in a business with thin margins like a restaurant - some businesses need the freedom to hire and fire quicker.


No they don't. If they need it their business is terrible and should not exist. I live in the Netherlands and our restaurants do just fine without being allowed to fire at will and without the need for tips to give employees a decent wage. It's called sane labor laws.


It’s a different world. The US is a free country. You are free to work wherever they accept you. A job is not a right: you cannot demand anything that someone else must provide you. And people for the most part are free to start a business pretty much whether it should exist or not regardless of anybody else’s opinions.


And all of this is different from NL or most other European countries how?

Hint: it isn't, we just have sensible protections against wrongful termination.


"sensible" is meaningless. Everyone gets to make up their own def. Parent is correct, the US is a free country, which means beyond some _very_ simple rules we don't try to think for employers, we let the consumers do that. That's the point of a functioning market.

I prominently tell companies why they don't get my business, and Marriott will hear from me next year when I call, waste their time gleefully explaining how I might have used their services but they fired a guy to kowtow to China.

Even better, this is gold on his resume.

In the US we don't pretend we are smarter than other business owners. The socialism route of adding regs to "fix" regs is self defeating. Treating people like fools makes them fools eventually.


Calling the US "a functioning market" is a bit rich.

The US society and politics are way too heavily tilted towards the employers, the people who already wield an disproportionate amount of power over their employees.

If you actually take the time to voice your displeasure over situations like this, you are an extreme outlier. Most people don't give a shit, and even fewer will even hear of stuff like this happening. Even if they do hear about it, they'll forget in a week or two.

In the end, nothing will actually change. Employers will still exploit the employees for profit, and fire people for absolutely no reason at all, while making potential new employees jump through ever more hoops in the desperate hope for a job.


"exploit the employees for profit, and fire people for absolutely no reason at all"

That is a contradiction, the entire point of a company is to make a profit by providing consumers with something they are willing to pay for. Use all the derogatory words you like, in this case "exploit" seems to mean "employ" (which is pretty odd btw), and "no reason at all" seems to mean "like a tweet".

It's a self regulating system, that's capitalism. Marriott screwed up, and now it's on their permanent record. I'm sure they just lost my business, if I use history as a gauge, and assume I live until I am 90, that's high 4 to low 5 figures in today's $'s.


A mark on their permanent record? It'll be out of the news in less than a week, and people won't give a shit anymore. Hell, I bet you'll have forgotten soon enough.

Do you write down and keep track of all your personal boycotts? Do you check the list every time you make a purchase or pay for a service? Sure, if you're like me, you remember stuff like "Nestle wanted to privatize clean drinking water for profit" and "Coca-Cola paid hitmen to assassinate union leaders", and avoid those companies. But "Mariott once fired a guy for liking a tweet"?

Yeah, no. You'll forget soon enough, just like everyone else. And companies like Mariott are counting on it. I know "the Internet never forgets", but that doesn't matter when it's soon drowned out by a million times more random informational noise. It'll stick around, alright. But only as some random mariottsucks.org website, or as a long-forgotten Facebook group.

They fired a guy for accidentally clicking like on a tweet. If the consequences for that action are so severe, why is it even possible in the situation he was put in? Was he briefed ahead of time that his employment was hanging by a thread, pending a single misclick? In any sensible system, he would have been called for a brief talk with his immediate superior, where he would have been given a warning and explained why it was necessary. He certainly wouldn't have been fired outright for something so minor.

Capitalism self-regulates for maximum profit to the fat cats, maximum work effort squeezed from workers for the absolute minimum possible pay. That's why unions are needed, to balance out the power of the employers, through collective bargaining and solidarity.


> I prominently tell companies why they don't get my business, and Marriott will hear from me next year when I call, waste their time gleefully explaining how I might have used their services but they fired a guy to kowtow to China.

Yes, some guy whose entire job is to field customer complaints will listen to you and then hang up the phone and not report your complaint to anyone.


Parent is correct, the US is a free country, which means beyond some _very_ simple rules we don't try to think for employers, we let the consumers do that. That's the point of a functioning market.

This assumes a definition of 'functioning market' that not everyone agrees on. In my view the market and the government serve the well-being of the general population. The US is starting to fail miserably in that area, because income inequality is pretty bad and has steadily been growing since the 1970'ies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient#/media/File:G...

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/...

Moreover, the influence of industry lobbying in the US had become enormous and paralyzes democracy. Of course, the industrial complexes and part of the government keeps up the fairytale of 'the US is a free country, if you don't make it, you are not working hard enough, the market is self-regulating', because it is convenient for them. As long as people believe this, they will not object to having no rights and no decent income. If you are a random person, the opportunities of building up a good and secure life are much better in Nothern and Western Europe.

tl;dr: not only the government needs to be kept in check, also the market. Otherwise big companies dictate the policies.


There is a right to work under the responsibility to protect. Industry structure that produces a permanent underclass is a form of violence, and class warfare.


This is a bizarre take on a business relationship between two free entities.

Is an employee allowed to quit? What about the "violence" it does to the company, investors, and fellow employees? Must they stick around to provide continuity? If so, how is this not indenture?

Am I allowed to fire a painter I hire to paint my house if I think he does poor work? Do I need to document his performance and discuss an improvement plan? Does this change if I own a house big enough to keep him painting for a month? For a year?

Employment represents a contract between two parties. Basic freedom of association and contract law means both parties can enter and leave under the terms they negotiate and have a rational self interest in acting in good faith.


In aggregate all the employment just represents society. There is a difference between engaging services and employing someone, and the heavy preference for engaging a human as services is part of the problem. It is no different from engaging a human as a good. If we all play by the same rules, then the contours of the market are not unfairly balanced toward one player. The market and social life are not distinct; contract law should protect all stakeholders as you mentioned.


> Is an employee allowed to quit? What about the "violence" it does to the company, investors, and fellow employees? Must they stick around to provide continuity? If so, how is this not indenture?

Grotesque. Many industries in various countries have a reasonable notice period (say, 3 months), which should give the company enough time to adapt. Nobody considers this "indenture".

> Employment represents a contract between two parties. Basic freedom of association and contract law means both parties can enter and leave under the terms they negotiate and have a rational self interest in acting in good faith.

The difference is that one party, most of the time, can manage without the other. On the other hand, the fired employee still needs to pay rent/feed his family. And depending on the economy/location, finding a different job might take some time (if it's possible at all without retraining).


Three months is fascinating. That's a quarter of a year! We live in different worlds.

I've always found two weeks notice to be more than adequate in most cases and then, only as a courtesy to communicate, transfer in flight work, and alter schedules. If I'm truly mad, I'm resigning and dealing with picking up the slack is not my problem. If an employee tells me they're leaving, I want them gone soon anyway because mentally they've already left the team.


Sorry but why should the law have to cater to someone's business model?


Employees are sellers of labor, so proponents of less regulation could ask the same question of you regarding an employee whose business model is doing as little as possible or even damaging the employer but expecting compensation to continue.


They use those plans to avoid discrimination lawsuits, that is really the only reason behind it. HR in the US is totally different too, it's basically "just protect the business from being sued by employees."


Australian businesses tend to employ as casuals for cafes and restaurants. No need to fire the person, just reduce shifts till they get the hint (I am not an employer).

Aside from Unions, there is no way of protecting employees where they are interchangeable cogs. Unions have their own problems, but collective action is a pretty good deterrent against 'unjustified' termination.


Plenty of restaurants exist in countries with sane workplace relationship laws, especially when they pay them at least minimum wage!


Agreed we shouldn't cherry pick countries.

One interesting thing about France and Australia is that by the Ease of Doing Business Index over the last decade, France is gaining on but still behind Australia. (FRA: 44 -> 31; AUS: 6 -> 14).

So suppose we agreed France was performing worse economically than Australia over the last decade. Then we might conclude that absolute position matters and liberalization is important. Or we might as likely conclude the complete opposite, that gains on the index don't matter and liberalization isn't important.

And that's not even bringing the Economic Freedom Index into things, which has a radically different ranking based on similar criteria.

It's almost as if a lot of of what people believe about economics on both sides is under-determined by the available evidence.

But eh, maybe that's too cynical. That's just two countries. I'd really like to see some data analysis on how much "ease of doing business" (or some similar metric) matters to GDP--and maybe also to surveys of feelings of job security / satisfaction as well. Looking across most countries, maybe hard patterns would emerge. Or maybe economics is all noise unless you're at Weimar levels of malfeasance, who knows.

South Korea, Georgia, and Macedonia have skyrocketed up the EoDB chart, so I guess for any of us who suspect there's a sufficiently strong link, we have an opportunity to put our money down.


Another relationship to study is between the quasi job-for-life laws we have in France and being the country with the most population under antidepressants in the world.


> France and being the country with the most population under antidepressants in the world.

I was intrigued by this and decided to have a look at the figures and I can't find anything to support your statement. Where do you get your information from?

From Business Insider graphing OECD figures for the number of people per 1000 who take antidepressants shows France to be 50/1000 which is 16th from the top.

http://static3.uk.businessinsider.com/image/56b381f7dd0895c4...

Directly from the OECD site is a page showing the dose consumed per 1000 people. It's very similar to the above, possibly the same data source but they are supposedly measured in different ways.

https://asset.keepeek-cache.com/medias/domain21/_pdf/media23...

They both show France uses a lot less than many other countries,less than half Iceland and bout 2/3rds of the UK, Sweden, Canada and Australia.


>Regardless of your view on labour laws I think most people agree on this.

Not if the other option was China shutting down a bunch of Marriott hotels and hundreds of employees losing their jobs instead.


The parent replied to a comment as a rebuttal against the claim that France's employment laws are what you get when you give employees rights.

They specially stated the false dichotomy, and made a strong argument.

No one here knows if the other option has to be Marriott losing business, so you putting that out there is wrong, and ironically, again a false dichotomy.


Maybe you didn't read the full parent comment?

I was responding to this point, which is specifically about the Marriott case.

>Executives dismissing a support employee—out-of-touch executives who have probably forgotten how important an ongoing income stream is for people on low or even normal incomes—just to save face in a business relationship is in my opinion unjustifiable.


I did, and GP said that firing to save face is unacceptable. While you said

>Not if the other option was China shutting down a bunch of Marriott hotels and hundreds of employees losing their jobs instead.

to which I said we don't know, and you saying so is a false dichotomy because there are often other options.


But that wasn't the other option. They could have fired the executive who was responsible for managing and training the staff (who clearly failed to do so) or the executive that implemented a customer support system that allowed staff to like tweets that could cause significant damage to the company.

Or they didn't have to fire anyone - it's not like China actually gets to see employment records for random staff in Omaha.


See, this is an interesting thing about labor law: it can actually protect both parties.

If Marriott was forbidden by law from firing the employee in this situation, then they could much more easily deflect the pressure from China. Make some token gesture and then say, hey, we'd like to do more, but those pesky laws prevent us from doing that.

This is a case where everybody wins when there's stronger employee protection.


Nah, the better outcome is Marriott showing it's hand. Better to know who is running the show, the consumers do just fine sorting it out. PR is extremely powerful and at least in the US many of us are very conscious about voting with our money. The alternative, where influence by people that are antithetical to our core values stays under the radar is much more damaging. My whole family will soon know this story, and they _love_ voting with their money.

How's the NFL doing?


This can work sometimes and may even sound wise, until you realize that a lot of people's character and behaviour is determined by their environment.

So I prefer the direct approach that is known to work by directly helping people do the right thing, over the indirect approach that may or may not work, depending on circumstances.


"direct approach"

Which is? Decide for them?


Can you terminate employees because you need to save money (i.e. laying them off)?


yup, redundancies can be used to dismiss employees. The caveat is that you can't rehire for that role for a certain period of time. This is simply to avoid the problem of companies claiming random employees are no longer needed.

It is not uncommon for smaller employers to fire a manager, and hire a new supervisor though. Same job - different title.

I'm unsure if it's been challenged at the FWC - I doubt it would stand.


You also need to offer other options within the company if they exist.

So if you're reducing the number of staff employed to support "system A", but you have vacant positions supporting "system B", then you you need to offer those positions to any affected staff, or show why those employees would not capable of doing the new job.


You don't have to empathize with a business owners. It's their resources at play. So they simply will do business elsewhere. I don't have to open an office in France. I just don't. It's too much hassle. I open it wherever I want. So if an employee loses out by not being hired by me (or I lose out by not hiring some French awesome person), then so be it. But the point is that the US environment is more friendly for businesses, and as a result we have a lot of them. Maybe other places also have a lot of them too, but if you did a poll all over the world of what country they would want to emigrate to, it would be the US who will lead the worldwide poll.


I would like to see that poll because nobody I know would ever want to emigrate to the US, especially now with that idiot president you have.

On the other hand I see a lot of refugees trying to get to Germany and Sweden which have at least the same if not stricter labour laws.

Reading your comment I feel that you live in a really strange bubble which allows you to think like you do.


Different people are attracted to different potential outcomes. Compensation is a vector, after all. It’s the usual question of risk versus reward. Some will find the perceived safety of generous government protection and benefits desirable, even at the cost of lower remuneration. Others prefer to swing for the fence.


> nobody I know would ever want to emigrate to the US

And yet people want to get here so bad they illegally stream over the border by the millions.

> I see a lot of refugees trying to get to Germany and Sweden

It's a lot harder to walk from Europe to the US.



No, that’s wrong. It’s just one of the lies you Americans love to tell each other.



I was trying to find supporting evidence for this (I certainly feel it to be true), Unfortunately I found the opposite[1].

Though this was till 2016, so I wonder if it's changed.

[1]: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/11/these-are-the-countri...


There's a lot of inertia involved in this.

I have launched international hiring processes for PhD studentship positions at my lab. More than once, I have had good candidates who ended up rejecting an offer and going to the US instead because their universities have more prestige.

Sometimes the convenience of these decisions for them was, let's say, highly questionable (although I really hope I'm wrong and wish them the best of luck!). For example, a person from Iran who went there to first be hit by Trump's travel ban, and then the graduate student hike. Here that person would have had a good salary, enough to live well, and no such worries. And even though my university as a whole is ranked worse that the university they ended up in, my group/lab is better on any metric.

I have also had a candidate from an Asian country who really wanted to come here, but their parents wanted their child to go to a "prestigious US university" so they didn't let them.

I do think that if you ask in Europe, almost no one wants to go to the US. At least that's my experience. But in other areas of the world the inertia of the US's reputation is strong.


This is also why people in France have stable, long-term jobs, instead of being fired by Wallmart every 6 months due to some war veteran scheme that allows them to save 0.1% on employee salaries.

In this particular case, if the man wasn't trained appropriately to handle international PR while doing so, the wrongdoing lies with the company.

The article itself seems to adopt a certain attitude that I really dislike. For one, I don't believe that the employee clicked accidentally. It really sounds like a lie. Then the arguments alternate between "it's not my job" and "Why should we care about China/other countries? Why should just tell them to f-ck off!". The truth is that both the US and the company seem to have an opinion. The employee, either due to negligence or ignorance, broke that line, and the company faced a backlash. It's not like China is exceptionally evil or something. I hate people trying to vilify entrire countries and politicize everything. It sounds like the author is just looking for a reason to bash China.


A lot of young people in France are on short-term contracts, precisely because long-term employees are hard to fire.

Imagine that you are a startup in France, with long-term employees, and suddenly you realize you screwed up, and you have to cut your expenses in half. Today, that means your startup is dead and all employees are screwed, but in the US, your startup continues with a much lower valuation. Which is better for the worker? There is no right answer, but in France, there's a startup-killing answer.


> you are a startup in France, with long-term employees, and suddenly you realize you screwed up, and you have to cut your expenses in half.

You dismiss employees equivalent to half of your expenses on economic grounds, and after the appropriate notice period (1 month for employees with 6 months - 2 years tenure [1]) you now have half the expenses.

If that's not fast enough, I doubt your startup would have survived for more than 2 months with an instant layoff.

[1] http://www.oecd.org/els/emp/France.pdf


OK, no problem, I am convinced because Europe has tons of successful startups.

That works great until the next time I am interviewed by French TV about why the EU doesn't have as many startups as Silicon Valley.


Surely at-will employment is not all it takes to suddenly have lots of successful startups. Otherwise the US would have a more spread-out distribution of startups, instead of the cluster in Silicon Valley.

When you do get interviewed by French TV, I hope you won't pretend like this is a single-cause issue with a simple fix.


California's advantages are existing tech employers, wildly risk taking investors, and above average US workers' rights like banning non compete agreements. The EU has the first, none of the second, and I wouldn't know about the third.


> why the EU doesn't have as many startups as Silicon Valley

I'm french. I can't speak for sure about other EU countries, but I can speak about France.

The REAL and main reason why tech startups are less frequent here is cultural.

In France we have a HUGE problem with elitism & a widespread negative attitude toward anybody who tries to innovate/change/make things. It's a pervasive problem, I've been MANY times hit HARD by that problem. Initiative is strongly discouraged (even if most people will claim the opposite): no matter what you do, a LOT of people will immediately give you _negative_ critics of all kind, sometimes mind-bogglingly stupid: "it'll never work", "that's not a good idea", etc. The more clueless they are, the most aggresisve they are about it. It's really hard to be motivated in such an environment, and of course it also has a direct impact when you try to find funds or associates...

Also, many people, especially the managers & the elites only see the BIG companies as being worth anything, despite the fact that small to medium businesses make the majority of employment & create the most value.

Add to that the HUGE problem that managers and all the elite (politics, leaders, whatever), salespeople, and many others, have an extremely TOXIC attitude toward people who DO THINGS. For instance I was given shit many times because while being a team lead I was involved in the programming part. To them, a manager does NOT get his/her hands DIRTY. Which is stupid of course and explains a LOT of the problems we have here. And trust me, this goes very far, there is a real CONTEMPT toward people like me, who are the ones who build the products & services that bring all the money. I've been mocked to my face because of that by people (sales & managers) who have no clue about how to manage a project, a team, and even less a programming project... (And I've worked on HUGE telecom projects, not a couple of PHP pages). Same goes for everybody in my family, who are mostly scientists/engineers. This in turn creates a big dissatisfaction -or worse- in the people who are in the trenches, creating an awful "us versus them" mentality that kills productivity & often creates a very bad work atmosphere.

And don't get me started about the awful prejudices against programmers (and everybody involved in computer projects). It's REALLY bad! So bad that I regret choosing that field. Here also there is a huge contempt & all the ridiculous prejudices that you probably know about nerds, programmers, etc. (Of the hundreds of developers/SE I've met, I can count on the fingers of ONE hand the ones who somewhat fit the stereotypes, and those were people with severe mental issues, something not related to the job). Another BIG problem is the "programming is easy" B.S. This leads many managers to think that they can replace experienced people like me with cheap beginners, sometimes in foreign countries, with disastrous results (as I wrote above, I worked in BIG projects, with crushing responsibilities, not the stuff that beginners can handle by themselves even if they are good which was not the case because being cheap, they were not the best, not by a long shot).

The huge bureaucracy does not help either, but it's not the most important issue.

In case someone points out the few recent initiatives to encourage startups in France, let me repeat what I just wrote: the fundamental issue is ATTITUDE. Until we can fix that, everything else is basically useless.


> A lot of young people in France are on short-term contracts, precisely because long-term employees are hard to fire.

Having a long-term contract where you can be fired at-will any day is effectively the same as cumulating short-term contracts, so instead of a lot of people on short-term contracts, you just have everybody (100%) on short term contracts.


There is one big difference. If you have a long term contract in the US where you can get fired at will, you can still get a mortgage. If you're cumulating short term contracts in France, no bank will agree to let you get a mortgage or will make it very difficult.

This creates an underclass of people who are unable to buy their own house because of the employment situation


That's not the case in the US: employees have a lot more protection if they're a part of a "protected class". And, surprisingly enough, it works pretty well.

I, personally, have a limited ability to be a part of a protected class, but that appears to work out ok for people like me. I've been fired once, and I got a better job as a result.


> I've been fired once, and I got a better job as a result.

I'm not sure that's the way it works if your a 49 year old customer care agent from omaha.


> A lot of young people in France are on short-term contracts, precisely because long-term employees are hard to fire.

A lot of American workers are on short-term contracts, too, for nearly the same reasons.

> Imagine that you are a startup in France, with long-term employees, and suddenly you realize you screwed up, and you have to cut your expenses in half. Today, that means your startup is dead and all employees are screwed, but in the US, your startup continues with a much lower valuation. Which is better for the worker? There is no right answer, but in France, there's a startup-killing answer.

The risk that it will go out of business is part of working for a startup. It doesn't make sense to punish the rest of us to save a handful of startup employees.


By all means, if a country prefers economic suicide for startups instead of birthing the next Silicon Valley, it's a valid choice.


Yeah, that sounds great... economic strife for everybody so that a few well connected college dropouts can get rich on "Uber for Food" or a viral phone game.


Startups are a form of volatile research projects that could be done better in a corporate environment. Startups provide precarious and unstable employment, and on average they fail and lead to unemployment.

I personally love working on new, potent ideas, but this is not a viable model of development for society. "Gig economy" is getting out of control, and it's better to kill the startups than to let people abuse the legal loopholes they require.

If you cannot provide a certain minimum of employment time, you shouldn't hire people. As for short-term contracts, they were misused a lot post-2008, but the situation is much better now and most people won't work under such contracts.


> Startups are a form of volatile research projects that could be done better in a corporate environment.

Check out "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Christensen. Innovation doesn't come from established corporations. It comes from startups.


In "The Innovator's Dilemma" Christensen makes a compelling argument why startups can eat an established company's lunch, but it doesn't go so far as say innovation cannot come from established corporations or only comes from startups. There are examples where established companies have innovated. Three off the top of my head: Bell Labs as part of Bell Telephone made many critical innovations; Apple has also continued to innovate over the years. IBM isn't always thought of as innovating nowadays, but they've had a long history of not only patenting new ideas but also bringing them to market.


The top companies in the US are all new ones (except for GE). AT&T is irrelevant today, as is IBM after it got disrupted by startups Microsoft and Compaq.


Sure, there's turnover. And there will likely always be cycles like that. That only means that companies don't last or innovate forever, not that they can't innovate.

Out of curiosity, what criteria are you using for "top companies"? Looking at the top 10 of the Fortune 500 (http://fortune.com/fortune500/) and their founding years:

1. Walmart (1945)

2. Berkshire Hathaway (1889)

3. Apple (1977)

4. Exxon Mobil (1870)

5. McKesson (1883)

6. UnitedHealth Group (1974)

7. CVS Health (1964)

8. General Motors (1908)

9. AT&T (1983 as AT&T, 1877 as Bell Telephone)

10. Ford Motor (1903)

By market cap (2017, first quarter) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_public_corporations_by...)

1. Apple (1977)

2. Alphabet (1988)

3. Microsoft (1975)

4. Amazon.com (1994)

5. Berkshire Hathaway (1889)

6. Exxon Mobil (1870)

7. Johnson & Johnson (1886)

8. Facebook (2004)

9. JPMorgan Chase (1871 as J.P. Morgan & Co)

10. Wells Fargo (1852)

I'm not listing these as counterfactual, but only as an example. I know there are different ways of measuring "top" companies, and these are two. It's also arguable that these don't capture the idea of "top innovators". I'm interested in knowing what you're using. I'm probably missing something obvious.


By market cap. I'm a bit curious of your founding dates. Alphabet was formed from a restructuring of Google. Google was founded in 1998, not 1988.


I looked them up on Wikipedia. Good catch! Typo. And if I were consistent, I would have made a note on the restructuring as I did in a couple of other cases. The commenter apologizes for the error. ;)


I also checked Berkshire Hathaway (1889). It actually goes back to 1839. But does a series of mergers and acquisitions actually count here? The modern form came from Warren Buffett buying shares in it in 1962, and eventually buying them out years later. Buffett's version of the company has pretty much no resemblance to the company he bought out, they aren't at all in the same business, and he mentioned in 2010 that BH was more of a hindrance than a help.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkshire_Hathaway#History

Notably absent from the list are behemoths of the past, like RCA, Kodak, Sears, IBM, Ford, GM, US Steel, Union Pacific, etc.


My point (which I'll repeat once and then I'm done) is not that established companies never get disrupted or innovate forever, but to push back against the idea that established companies can't innovate (and that The Innovator's Dilemma contends that disruption is the only way innovation happens), which I took from "Innovation doesn't come from established corporations." (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16665304) I don't see anything you've added that contradicts that.


Yea I'd disagree. Like the process of evolution, I believe that ideas and the mutation and the proliferation of those ideas are what leads to progress. More seeds.


Hey, I'm all in favor of you working on new ideas, but only within an existing corporate environment. But there's plenty of proof that that's a terrible way to advance society at large.


If a number of people(experienced/experts in a field) are willing to volunteer their time and/or capital in exchange for equity/patents/stock, then it's all good. My problem lies with externalizing the cost and risk to employees.

If they need something done and they can't guarantee long-term employment, they can buy commercial services for what they need. Engineering firms and temp offices will be happy to send you a secretary, a software solution or a CAD file with what you asked.


> My problem lies with externalizing the cost and risk to employees.

It's really not your business what other people freely choose to do with their time. Nobody makes anyone work at a startup.


> It's not like China is exceptionally evil or something.

China isn't. The Chinese communist government is, though.


> The real story is he has no employment rights because he's in America and he's "at will."

At-will employment is state level, not nation level, so it's not really a "he's in America" thing. Most states subscribe to some version of at-will employment, but various states have different types of exceptions which make it much less clear to apply as a statement to the entire United States (much less the various other groups "America" could refer to).


Is there another country that has "at will" employment to the extent that the US does?


China.


Pretty much all of them except a few European nations.


Pretty much no other developed country has this. Hell most Eastern European countries don't have this.


>Pretty much all of them except a few European nations.

Where on earth did you get that idea?

There are no affluent western nation besides the United States with "At Will" employment except perhaps Israel (I was unable to confirm).


Israel isn't "at will"...


Thanks. I saw that mentioned on Quora but there was no citation provided.


The UK effectively has at will employment for the first two years. (But with Equality Act protections for people with protected characteristics: you can't fire someone because of their gender, for example).


It's one week up to 2 years.

Not great, but "at will" means 0 notice.

https://www.gov.uk/redundant-your-rights/notice-periods


The law and details varies by province/territory in Canada, but in every single one of them you are due form of notice/pay in lieu of notice. I.e. they have to pay you for X weeks after they tell you they are firing you, they might require you keep working for those X weeks.


I really like the Alberta model[1]. Employers are required to give a few weeks notice when firing without cause, and employees are required to give a few weeks notice when quitting without cause.

The notice periods are not excessively long, but they give both parties a chance to prepare for the change. A few weeks might not be enough time to hire a new employee or find a new job, but it should be enough to put together a plan.

The ability to fire or quit without cause seems like the part of 'at will' employment that's most important to economic efficiency, so it's nice to have a kinder system which still includes that.

[1]: https://www.alberta.ca/termination-pay.aspx


I am not sure about that... Not in Brazil at least


One of the few things I miss about Brazil is how much more protection I had there as a worker compared to the US.


Forcing employers to keep employees they don't like, for any reason beyond discrimination, isn't the answer. The better answer is, IMO, better social safety net so people making $14/hr don't end up on the streets just because their job goes away.


But in the USA, we insist that the unemployed suffer to fluff the moral vanity of the wealthy. It is the flip side of "meritocracy" -- wealth is evidence of moral superiority while poverty is evidence of moral inferiority, and more dramatic the comparison the stronger the proof that success is deserved.

"There but for my own prodigious talent and relentless drive to succeed go I."


>>Forcing employers to keep employees they don't like

Many jurisdictions allow firing without cause - they just make the employers pay (significant) severance, often related to the length of service of the employee. I think it's perfectly reasonable to say "I don't want you in my company any longer", I just happen to think it might be reasonable to pay for that privilege.


What a strange use of the word privilege.

Seriously though, if everyone paid into strong safety net, all the time, not just when they fire someone, the result for fired employees is the same and the lack of bureaucracy will probably make that approach even cheaper. The real upside though is that companies can be very nimble and are more competitive internationally.

On both sides - greedy people who don't want to pay either in the moment for firing someone or pay taxes for a safety net, and employees who demand total job security even if it means cement boots for the employer - the extremes are very short sighted.


Why is that reasonable when firing an employee (vs layoffs)?

So a bad performing person now costs even more to get rid of? That might force the company to just keep them on and try to squeeze out some productivity, waiting until they just quit instead.


It's reasonable when firing an employee without cause. If a person is performing badly, document that and then fire them.


> If a person is performing badly, document that and then fire them.

Which is entirely subjective. There are a billion criteria you can reasonably evaluate someone on, so it's trivial to make the average person look below average by choosing the things they're bad at as the things to evaluate them on.

A company will always be able to get rid of an employee they don't like one way or another. The only choice you have is how much bureaucracy to impose. But it's the same amount of bureaucracy even when the company has a justifiable reason.


For you to be so dismissive of the breadth and depth of documentation needed to withstand a potential lawsuit, I suspect your experience is limited to the employee side of the relationship.


Denmark is famous for having a social safety net that makes sure laid-off employees have the skills to get a new job. It's a happy medium between excessive employee protections and lack of employee protections.


Safety net is definitely there, but my Dane friends actually told me it’s really bad for small businesses to the point that small businesses won’t hire for desperately needed work because it is impossibly expensive to let anyone go.


I've never heard anyone express that concern. Rather, I would think the reason why small businesses won't hire would more likely be because the wages are so high here.

You can quite easily hire for work for small periods, e.g. summer job style.


I wonder if you have misunderstood your friends. The Danish system is different from other Nordic countries in that dismissal is quite easy from legal point of view (even if for someone running a small company, it may still be psychologically very difficult).

The unemployment benefits are good, although the officials monitoring it also force the unemployed to be quite active to find a new job.


This was his complaint 10 years ago, from an earlier time (perhaps 20 years ago?) he was considering starting a business.

I probably have misunderstood his complaints, as you and Tehnix both point out; I'll reach out to him to get the details right...


Perhaps that experience is more than 20 years old. Denmark started to implement a thorough labour market reform in 1990's and coined the term "flexicurity", to denote a system where hiring and firing are extremely simple, but employees have good unemployment benefits and receive active guidance by authorities for re-employment. This has been created since then.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexicurity


Yes, this unusual Danish system is why I said Denmark -- it's pretty different from the rest of Europe.


The Flexi-Security approach to social security. The hard part is making sure companies pay their dues.


Having health care tied to the employer-employee relationship has worked out poorly.

The less the safety net is subject to the whims of business, the better off we will all be -- including businesses.


How come? AFAIK there is no big problem in Denmark (which has the flexicurity approach) to collect social security payments. All employees have a person number registered at the civil registration system. Companies pay the social contributions and tax withdrawals with the PAYE system.

The only exception is perhaps "shadow economy" of immigrant-dominated areas in some cities where rule of law is weaker and restaurants and other local businesses may use undocumented employees. But these cannot be very big business.


And yet all I see on HN is talk about how hiring a single false positive is supposedly so calamitous that it's better to reject (and waste the time of, and insult) tens, hundreds, or even thousands of false negatives.


There's a lot of "natural" toxicity of bad hires, and it does inspire a lot of fear. Additional state-imposed toxicity makes it even worse.


I see this pro-worker sentiment on HN pretty regularly. But I also see the "hire slow, fire fast" mantra.

Are these views held by different people, or by the same people regarding different situations (like working for big companies versus startups)?


different people most likely is my guess


I wouldn’t be surprised by anything. Americans are shameless contortionists in the act of justifying inhumane business practices.


This seems to imply that had Roy not lived at-will state he would have kept his job and completely misses the real bully in the article.

Read the section on the threats Marriott got. China barred Marriot from making online bookings for a week. China would have done everything in their power to make sure someone was going to suffer for Roy’s mishap.

At-will employment would have changed little about Roy’s situation vs a huge international political bully.


> At-will employment would have changed little about Roy’s situation vs a huge international political bully.

That entirely depends on the country. There is no "huge international bully" clause in employment law.

Not to mention that I'm not sure about "the real bully". If you think that underpaid customer care agents have the responsibility for executing your business strategy in China, maybe you should pay them appropriately. Or maybe you should ensure that someone higher up the food chain takes the fall.


In my opinion, there is a bigger problem with at will employment than being able to be fired at any time. If your employer wants to change your contract in almost any fashion, their continued employment of you is considered to be sufficient “consideration” for the change.

They want to put you on call? No extra pay required. Change you to the night shift? You still have a job, that’s sufficient.

It’s an employee rights disaster.


> They want to put you on call? No extra pay required. Change you to the night shift? You still have a job, that’s sufficient.

How is it not? You can always threaten to quit if they don't give you a raise. The only way that doesn't work is if they can easily replace you with someone willing to work harder for less money.

And in that case that's what they're supposed to do. You would only be willing to quit if you had a better option that the person willing to do this job for less money apparently doesn't. So then they should get your job and you should go take the better job.


I keep seeing this "supposed to do" tossed around when it comes to companies abusing their employees (and yes, changing an employees contract without more consideration than "keep working" is abusing an employee) like it's some kind of divine directive that drives capitalist corporations.

It's not. A company can treat its employees well and still be profitable. There is no law that says the only job of a company is to maximize profits for shareholders; in fact, this has gone to court and judged to not be the case. So, no, a company is not "supposed" to do these kinds of underhanded things. Just because they can - just because it's legal - doesn't mean they should.


> and yes, changing an employees contract without more consideration than "keep working" is abusing an employee

How is it abuse when it's entirely voluntary? The employee is not a slave. They can walk away at any time, or threaten to in exchange for concessions.

> There is no law that says the only job of a company is to maximize profits for shareholders

Nobody is claiming that here. You're assuming the only reason companies ever do this is to screw people over, when just as often it's caused by the company's revenues declining or costs increasing, requiring the company to do more with less or go out of business.

If the company can't keep paying you the same money for the same work, the only available options are to take what they're offering or leave your job. It doesn't help anybody to take away the first option.


Oh yeah the $14/hr employee is just gonna quit, because they can afford to go without income for the next few weeks while looking for a new one. Or not.


> Oh yeah the $14/hr employee is just gonna quit, because they can afford to go without income for the next few weeks while looking for a new one.

So spend a few weeks looking for a new job and then quit.

More importantly, you don't actually have to quit, you only have to make the credible threat of quitting. Then you get the raise because it's cheaper than finding and training a replacement.


Yep, once again, the real upsetting thing here is how US companies can just fire employees on the spot. That's just crazy.


It sucks. I'm in a state with At-Will employment - it affects those with very expendable jobs. I've had plenty of friends get fired from restaurant jobs just for (legitimately) calling in sick.


For me (Spain) this is unbelievable... That firing would be totally illegal here and the worker would have to be rehired and compensated.

Man, what a country.


In Europe he’d be fired for failing to do his job and/or tainting company image. No employee rights can save someone who made a mistake.

He might go to court over that and try to claim that it was not his fault or that it’s not such a big mistake. But his chances wouldn’t be good in most countries.

Oh, and he wouldn’t even be offered any kind of severance. It’d be seen as employ-fault firing.


As an "at will" junior software engineer, if I one day get fired for my lunch selection, is there any legal actions I can take, assuming I'm an honest, skilled, competent worker?


They probably won't tell you why you were fired.


And I can't legally demand to get more information, right?


And that's why unions are so important.


Anyone can also quit at any time. Doesn't matter if they need you or not.


Mutual consent is very important in interactions.


Buyers and sellers of labor are just like the buyers and sellers of any good or service. Why we've elevated selling labor to a company as something more significant than a barber selling haircuts doesn't make much sense when looked at logically.

If I get my hair cut at a barber every month for years. Do I owe that barber "rights" when I decide I don't want to cut my hair there anymore? I'm buying the labor. I'm hiring that barber to do a job for me. Is it my requirement that I provide that barber with "benefits?" No. I provide that barber with the cash he demands for his services -- then he can choose to buy whatever "benefits" he deems important. If the barber wants to charge me too much, I can find another barber who can do the same quality of job for less money. Perhaps I can't find a replacement, perhaps that barber is the only one with the unique experience to handle my hair -- in which case, he could demand more money since he has a rare combination of skills and experience that I'm willing to pay for. But, if his work is generic, then I can easily find another barber who has lower prices. If that barber wants to strike because he's mad I won't pay him more, then he can strike all he wants -- I'll go somewhere else or just stop getting my hair cut. Not my problem.

The barber's success or failure in the marketplace is due to his ability to control his costs, improve his efficiencies or otherwise differentiate himself within the market. A smart barber will have saved a portion of earnings to mitigate those times when he loses a customer. A even smarter barber will be looking at expanding his skills, increasing innovation and efficiency in order to ensure he's providing a compelling value proposition for his customers.

The not-so-smart barder assumes that past performance is an indicator of future results.

Why we have this backwards notion that the employer, the "customer" of labor has to provide the seller of labor with "protections" is a mystery. To me, it seems like this whole idea is just a Marxist religious belief. Just as fatalism and "the will of God," is a thing in many many Catholic Latin American societies, it seems like this idea of the "worker" as an "exploited" cog in an evil capitalist wheel is equally flawed. This idea that workers need "protecting" serves to infantilize otherwise grown-up adults. Thanks to vestigies of Marxist/Leninist 20th century propaganda, there's an entire school of thought that has workers as victims, children or otherwise incompetent invalids unable to care for themselves. The French Labor Code was built around that very idea.

I've been fired a few times with no-notice. I've also quit a few times with no-notice. I know what it feels like to have the carpet ripped out from under me -- but I don't feel like French style "protections" is the answer because, as quickly as I've been fired, I've been able to find new jobs because when there are fewer restrictions on hiring and firing -- it lowers the cost of hiring and firing. It provides liquidity to the labor market -- which is better for everyone.

Restrictive and highly protectionistic labor markets ALWAYS lead to higher unemployement AND lower wages. Since firing employees is expensive in protected labor markets, that means, necessarily, that companies will be far more conservative in hiring employees in the first place. You aren't going to hire someone quickly. You're going to vet, vet and re-vet potential hires. You're going to discriminate aggressively. You're going to ensure that they have absolutely perfect credentials. You're going to hire people recommended by close friends and trusted associates and those within your existing social circles -- because it would be risky to hire someone with a Algerian last name or from a school you've never heard of or from a country with which you aren't familiar. This is exactly how it works in France. [1]

If you look at Silicon Valley -- while a some level disrimination, it's one of the most diverse places in the world when it comes to national origin. The demand for labor is so high that a transgendered Nigerian midget with a criminal record will get hired if she happened to be an expert in Swift, Java, Go, AI, ML or Ruby. And said migdget could demand (and get) a salary that's 4 times higher that the same midget in Paris, with taxes 50% less and 18% more in after-tax, after-health disposible income. [2] The "problem" with Silicon Valley diversity isn't an unwillingness to hire, it's a relative undersupply of labor from particular groups. There are far fewer women software engineers than men. So it follows that it's going to be harder to hire women software engineers. Now, the reason for that supply problem is another discussion, but the fact is that a qualified anyone can get a job quickly in Silicon Valley -- specifically because there is a highly liquid labor market!

At will employment reduces unemployment and increases market/wage efficiency.

> They can dismiss him because they don't like his lunch selection that day and he has no rights.

Yes, and he has the right to quit if he doesn't like their lunch selection. He isn't a child. Employment is a two-way transaction. I have labor you want, you pay me for it. If either one of us don't like the arrangement, we can walk away. Why is that such a controversial idea? Any transaction where one side or another is forced to act against his or her own interests is wrong. Forcing a company to justify a reason is just as wrong as forcing an employee to justify why they should be allowed to quit.

It's about to be ironic when this post gets the inevitable downvotes -- downvotes from American tech employees and founders that benefit from the very labor liquity that I'm advocating.

[1] http://www.strategie.gouv.fr/english-articles/economic-cost-... [2] http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/France/Unit...


The real story is how web forums are the worst way to converse with real people all across the world.

How can we at least get back to the NNTP type of control we had in the 90's? HN is teetering on failure, and I'd just like to get back to NNTP? :(


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