Why not add the title of VP in Charge of Going to Jail to a survey benchmark list? Once upon a time, a member of the advisory committee of a famous survey originally conducted by a major think-tank in Southern Calfornia recommended that precise action.
While the offer was partly tongue in cheek, it was also partly serious. During one of the periodic cycles when corporate misdeeds and scandalous coverup attempts by law firms filled the news, it seemed like everyone was demanding that some top executive should serve jail time for the offenses of the moment. After all, if an organization endorses an illegal activity, it only seems right and proper that some officer privy to the decision should be designated to pay the penalty. If that is a corporate responsibility, perhaps it ought to be defined in a specific job title.
Lest anyone deny that organizations commit crimes, one should note that some things never change. A recent discussion in a total rewards forum proves that the wheel keeps turning and many of the same illegal compensation blunders are repeated again and again. Bad things happen all the time.
- Failure to properly adjust the regular rate per FLSA to reflect commissions
- Requiring nonexempt employees to work late without paying legally required overtime
- Knowingly employing “illegals”
- Demanding kickbacks from undocumented laborers
- Pretending that workers treated like all other employees are actually outside contractors
Folks who should know better insist on consciously evading statuatory regulations… heck, why use weasel words? They simply flaunt federal and state laws, apparently assuming that compensation decisions and HR actions are too well hidden to ever come to the attention of compliance officials. Or perhaps they hope they will be long gone to some other employer before the offenses come to light. Then someone ELSE might take the fall for their misdeeds. Well, someone ought to pay for such egregious offenses, especially when responsible top decision makers in the enterprise allow the flagrant misdeeds.
Condidering those factors, I made a formal proposal at an advisory committee meeting that “VP Designated to Serve Jail Time” should be added to the survey benchmark list. To facilitate participation, I also suggested that the job matching criteria should include attorney status as well as a VP or Principal role. Lawyers tend to play a central part in many massive scandals, anyway, so it seemed logical to try to kill two birds with one stone. Besides, their profession doesn’t get much sympathy but is frequently considered suitable for imprisonment or worse.
The proposal was met with laughter and some embarassment, as well as a few side comments that they wished it were feasible. Too many on the survey committee worried that such an act of organizational insolence might cost them their jobs, I fear.
What is your opinion?
E. James (Jim) Brennan is Senior Associate of ERI Economic Research Institute, the premier publisher of interactive pay and living-cost surveys. After over 40 years in HR corporate and consulting roles throughout the U.S. and Canada, he’s pretty much been there done that (articles, books, speeches, seminars, radio/TV, advisory posts, in-trial expert witness stuff, etc.), serves on the Advisory Board of the Compensation and Benefits Review and will express his opinion on almost anything.
Image "Hands in Jail" courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net