Six Ways Employers Abuse Workers In This Economy

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.


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13 Responses to Six Ways Employers Abuse Workers In This Economy

  1. Jason Whitmen says:

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

  2. It would be helpful to show some sources that these things are actually prevalent. Otherwise it seems like class warfare, and anecdotally/emotively speculative to boot. The big issue is our madly spending Federal government.

    • Paladin says:

      Thank you. To me, this is more of a blog entry, than a research article. But I can give you some personal anecdotes:

      I personally worked for a company that I really liked, and was referring very qualified, out-of-work friends for open job positions – until my manager told me that there was no open headcount, they were just trying to keep a fresh supply of applicants in a pool, ready at a moment’s notice in case upper management opened headcount. I later found this was a practice others of my friends had noticed that at their places of employment.

      Personally, I have also often had to put in numerous hours of unpaid work, in order to complete my duties. Otherwise, the work would not be done. Even though I am above-average in performance and rated so in reviews. For years, my mother worked as a clerk for several businesses. She had no management responsibilities, had no one under her, could not set her own hours, worked under direct supervision, but was still paid a salary for doing data entry work, often having to work 10 to 12 hours per day doing the jobs of two people for a single (very modest) fixed salary.

      I have had personal friends who work in retail, who have told me of their experiences in getting their work hours shifted often and cut back in a prejudicial manner. For example, rather than hire 10 people to work between 20 and 30 hours per week, the business has more like 20 people at between 10 and 25 hours per week. Unfavored workers are not laid off, but their hours are steadily reduced until they are forced to quit on their own because the hours are not enough to live on.

      Yes, I agree that the biggest issue facing our society is madly spending Federal government, borrowing to spend, borrowing to go to war, borrowing to give tax cuts and special subsidies to industry. I have written about issues with government debt in other blog posts and plan on writing more. This is just a single blog entry with some thoughts I was inspired to write today.

    • The blogpost is right on. Even were you to know no one personally experiencing this, Michael, (which in itself boggles the mind), it jives with common sense. Corporations exist to profit. This is their only reason for being. Mitt Romney, credited for his business acumen (just look at his gift to health insurance companies serving as a model for Obamacare), turned companies into profit-making behemoths by coming in and laying off tens of thousands of employees. I repeat, companies do not care about their employees. They hate unions because unions reduce profits. They care about profit and if they can save money by turning employees into slaves, all the better.

      Take a look at the privatized prisons. Corporations incentivized to imprison people as they are paid per body by the state ($43K in Texas) and then they can rent them out to corporations who want to replace their much higher paid labor with those they can pay $.23/hour (also Texas). Of course the prison is no doubt making even more money on the back end too (they pay the $.23 to the prisoner while the corps might have negotiated $3.50/hour…..) It is no accident that we have the highest number of imprisoned people in the world – we dwarf China (who has 3x as many people). Privatized police coming to your local neighborhood as soon as they get teachers and road-workers off the state payroll. Blackwater doing domestic duty anytime now (and paid a mint by taxpayers like you and me). We’ll be told our military is too busy fighting one of the 4-6 wars (depending on whether you count drone attacks) we’re fighting right now…. etc., etc.

      What paladin has written is tame compared to the evil that doesn’t need to lurk in the hearts of corporations, because simply, they don’t have one, and never, ever, can or will.

    • allen reynolds says:

      Yes, it is prevalent. I am neither a Democrat, or a Republican. It seems as if many who have Republican/conservative leanings have been conditioned to write off everything similar to articles such as this as ‘class warfare’. I have seen these things happen to myself , family members and friends. I believe that Capitalism and Free Enterprise is not the same thing. That does not make me a socialist either, as that also seems to be another conditioned response that is directed toward anyone that challenges capitalism. We need a nation wide work stoppage, where everyone stays home. We need Free Enterprise and that is a better way to distribute the wealth, as it will require everyone to work for it, unlike socialism, and it is the opposite of capitalism because real wealth will not all be in the hands of just a few.

  3. Boris Bakunas says:

    Over the course of more than four decades working, I have seen many examples of the abuses you have identified. Just one example where I was the beneficiary: I was invited to interview for a job based on the reputation I had established in the area I worked. After getting the hired, I learned that two other candidates had also been interviewed merely for show, since the decision had already been made to hire me.

    Although as individuals there may be little we can do to change society, perhaps we can turn the tables on some employers and apply for jobs we have no intention of taking. If we get interviewed, we can demand outrageously high salaries. It’s unlikely we will get what we ask for, but it is possible. One of the students in my graduate courses told me that a friend of hers did just that — and got the salary.

    Whatever the outcome, this exercise will (a) help us get used to being rejected, (b) provide us with valuable experience in being interviewed, and (c) boost our sense of control over our lives.

    In many fields, success is measured by the number of failures one is willing to experience. So it never hurts to try, even if it is only for fun.

  4. Amy says:

    but unfortunately, there are those of us that are not able to play a game back at them, and are simply struggling to find a job to take care of our children rather then be a drain on everyone else.

  5. Brian Groven says:

    I’ve worked in retail for several years, & here’s some ways that employers abuse their workers. I’ve personally experienced #1 (interview w/o intent to hire) and #3 (kept hungry for work hours). SUPPORT UNIONS! THIS IS WHY WE NEED THEM! Employers know that if they allowed unions they would fight for workers rights, & the the employers wouldn’t be able to get away with this abuse! ‎”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.” Yep! I’ve experienced this one too! 4 hours a week people! They won’t let you go, and if you quit you can’t collect unemployment insurance! Kohl’s did this to me! “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 don’t want you to work 2 jobs. If you have a 2nd job, then you naturally have to reduce your availability. But if you do that then they will give you even fewer hours. And if you ask why, they will say, “you need to be available more.” But with only 1 part-time job, you don’t get enough hours to live on! It’s insanity people, and just plain wrong!!! “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32, from the Bible

  6. Uncle Sam Sux says:

    Totally agree with your post, especially the part about unpaid-interns displacing workers. This practice is rampant in the Graphic Design field. Marvel Publishing of New York City has close to 30 openings for unpaid-internships and 2, “yes” 2, paying jobs posted on I’ve vowed to Boycott Marvel this year until the mainstream media covers this one…

    One question though: Why’s the site called Minority Survival? The entire country is going through this HELL, not just minorities!!!

  7. Janine says:

    My husband was fired for a trumped up charge – smoking in the work van. They all do it; even the manager. The company (ServiceMaster Fire and Flood Restoration company) also takes out an hour of pay for a lunch break that does not always happen. When my husband asked about it- or stated that he doesn’t always get a lunch break, or one that is an hour long – he was made fun of in front of other employees, and the owner said his break was when he was driving in the van from place to place. And now they are disputing paying him unemployment benefits. The govt won’t help. They said “lunch breaks” are something that is agreed upon between employers and employees, and that they can fire anybody at anytime with no reason. I am pro-union.

  8. Rachel says:

    Wow! I have a new one to add to this article. Call for interview without intent to interview you! Yes…I was called for a teaching job interview in a charter school in east Orlando. When I get there his secretary tells me is in training all day! She told me to call him and reschedule. So I called and he totally ignored me…after 6 hours he finally answers and tells me the position had been filled! No ethics or shame! This is why employers are against unions! True story!

  9. BA says:

    I would like to point out perhaps a different type of abuse. It’s been going on for quite sometime at my husbands job. People there are forced to work overtime hours and made to work hours that they can’t work or else threatened with disciplinary action. This includes weekends. They will give him points if he refuses and if they go over 6 points, they go into corrective action which means that they have reason to fire you. There are times when they make it hard on him to refuse especially because he needs to get home on time to pick up our daughter from school and there is no one available to get her and its very dark by 4:00 pm so we ask her to wait in the library if it’s open, or else she will be outside in the dark and cold for over an hour. Other employees are also being abused by getting laid off and told there’s no work but called back before two weeks are up so this way they are not able to collect unemployment, so this goes on an off regularly. So while they loose pay they can’t even collect. On top of this when the company starts getting very busy they will start Hiring a bunch of tempts to catch up and than tell the regular employees to go home because there is no work again, but yet they start giving them points if they don’t work and if told they have to work overtime, it is not by choice but by force. Although they do get paid for the overtime, I would like to know if this qualifies as abuse especially if you feel threatened to loose your job?

  10. BA says:

    Lol Well After ready everyone’s posts I just remembered one of my own abuse when I was younger. I was about 22-23 and work for 7 years for an auto shop. I was very shy but a hard worker. My excuse my language but my frkn boss was the biggest pervert I had every encountered. He would never give me a race so I work all those years with a minimum wage of $7.00 an hour. He would try grabbing me at times and constantly yelling and cursing. Till one day to make the story short I got so fed up when he yelled at me in front of a customer. So after he drove off with a customer to give him a ride. I said screw this and I changed the password on the computer to FU in full walked out. I also was smart about doing this because I was worried about getting my last check that week and thought if I left I won’t get paid. So after I did, the supervisor who was also a friend calls me and wanted me to come back also if I can give him the password. I refused of course and told him once he gives me my check I will give him the password. So the funny thing is as he gave me the check their was a customer there, he asked what is the password and I told him FU. lol the customer started laughing and said that’s a good one! lol

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