Here are some ways that employers abuse the current economic situation when it comes to hiring or treating employees:
1. Interviewed Without Intent To Hire
Some companies with frozen headcounts may advertise open positions so they can always have freshly interviewed applicants at the ready. Just in case executive management approves an opening, they have someone to bring in immediately, rather than start a hiring process that may take months (during which time executives may close that headcount before it gets filled). So applicants get their hopes up, spend money on dry cleaning their suit, shell out gas money or even borrow money for a flight to another city… But all for nothing.
2. Unpaid “Internships”
Unscrupulous companies (especially in public relations, media, copy writing, etc.) advertise full-time unpaid internships and get people desperate to subsidize labor (paying their own rent, food, travel expenses, etc.) for the company because they don’t want a gap in their résumé or because they want “experience”.
By law, unpaid internships are supposed to be educational for the intern, and more importantly, paid employees must not be displaced by the unpaid intern. But a New York Times article quotes a spokesman for Oregon’s labor department finding, “We’ve had cases where unpaid interns really were displacing workers and where they weren’t being supervised in an educational capacity.”
3. Kept “Hungry” For Work Hours
Some fast food outlets and retail stores offer only part-time shifts, keeping their low-paid workers starving for additional work hours in order to make ends meet. That way, someone is always available and willing to come in to work at a moment’s notice if another worker can’t make it in.
At the same time, they require workers to always be available by shifting their work schedules around every week, making it difficult for them to have another part-time job to earn money.
They also don’t do lay-offs. Rather, they just reduce the hours available to someone until that person only works 4 hours a week, then eventually quits on their own and can’t file for unemployment.
4. Discriminated Against For Being Older, Appearing Ill, Or Having Children
Those who appear older, or not as physically healthy, or have children may be rejected for a job, but never told it is because the hirer is concerned about increased health insurance premiums, or an employee with children who cannot put in 60-hour work weeks.
Or, a loyal employee may also be laid off or “fired” once their boss knows an employee has an expensive medical problem (currently, health insurance companies can still charge a small business significantly higher premiums just for having one sick worker) or cannot work additional unpaid hours.
5. Harassment, Violations, And Overwork
In tough economic times, some employers know that they can get away with abuse. So they do it or allow it to happen. Women get sexually harassed, minorities suffer a hostile work environment, employees may have to keep their mouths shut about safety violations or law-breaking.
Men and women may also be coerced into work a lot more unpaid hours: those on salary, but also those who legally should be hourly employees but are paid a salary, and those hourly employees who are forced to work extra hours off the clock.
6. “Firing” Instead Of Laying Off
Of course some employees will lie, cheat, or steal. Or repeatedly fail to come into work on time. They may deserve to be fired.
However, some companies will fire people using trumped-up causes (theft, supposedly lying on a job application 5 years ago, behavioral problems, supposed tardiness or absenteeism, etc.) and/or dispute a former employee’s unemployment insurance claims, appealing any judgments – all so that they can avoid increases in their unemployment insurance rates.