Relationship between employer and employee much more nuanced than law assumes, says employment law expert

Workers pour sweat, blood and even dollars into the firms that employ them, especially in a labor market characterized by employment and retirement insecurity, says Marion Crain, JD, expert on labor and employment law and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Work can shape one’s life in ways that run to the core of identity,” she says. “Work law, however, ignores these realities of interdependence and mutual investment, committing itself to a model of employment as an arm’s length, impersonal cash-for-labor transaction.” Crain suggests looking at other legal models such as marriage law to more accurately respond to the realities of the employment relationship, particularly at termination. 

Tread the Med walking program kicks off Sept. 28

Lace up your walking shoes – Tread the Med, Washington University School of Medicine’s walking program, launches Sept. 28 in Hudlin Park. “We are launching this program because we want to help our employees get healthier and to encourage a healthy habit like walking,” says Gregg Evans, human resources consultant.

Labor Day reflections – are unions passé?

Labor Day may celebrate the historical contributions of the American labor movement, but the future of the movement is in question. “Unions are under siege,” says labor and employment law expert Marion Crain, JD, the Wiley B. Rutledge Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis. “In the public sector, governors seeking to slash budgets are de-authorizing state labor laws that govern the organizing and bargaining rights of state employees. In the private sector, both the federal legislation that supports union action and the administrative body that enforces the law are under attack. Union density is on a dramatic downswing.” At the same time, wage inequality has not been higher since the Great Depression.

Deep psychological contracts formed between employees and employers can result in acts of revenge, ‘crimes of obedience’

McLean ParksNear one end of the spectrum are the Arthur Andersen employees who, out of loyalty to their employer and at great personal risk, destroyed files to cover up corporate scandal. At the other end is the disgruntled worker at another company who surreptitiously spread poison-ivy sap on executive-washroom toilet seats. “A clear signal to management,” says Judi McLean Parks, Ph.D., professor of organizational behavior at Washington University in St. Louis, “that something is wrong.” McLean Parks’ research at the Olin School of Business finds that both forms of organizational behavior grow from the same seed of organizational identity.