Worldwide, many employees do not have any rights at all: They are slaves and therefore treated as property.
As of March 2016, WorldAtlas.com reported, based on multiple sources compiled into a “Global Slavery Index,” that there are an estimated 35.8 million slaves globally and that approximately 1 in 4 of them (26%) are children. “Adult male slaves, meanwhile, are often forced into labor due to financial debts, while females are often exploited for prostitution.”
Although today every country in the world “condemns” forced labor, according to the International Labour Organization, someone is still making money from it. Even if you subtract forced sexual labor, the world’s 14.2 million slaves generate an estimated $51 billion per year.
Michael Hobbes, writing for the Huffington Post, notes that consumers have for twenty years now tried to avoid slave labor in the products they buy. And although many lists have been published in the name of providing transparency, truly achieving this goal remains elusive. However, eventually technology and the worldwide trend toward greater and greater recognition of universal human rights will likely shut down those who continue to rely on this illegitimate form of “staffing.”
Some employees are lucky enough to choose where they work. Although they inhabit a far more privileged place in the world, they do suffer from workplace bullying, which is a pervasive problem.
A 2008 study by Dr. Judy Blando, cited by Forbes in 2016, found that 75% of employees had either witnessed bullying or been bullied during the past year. Blando cited research showing that 82% of victims did not remain in their jobs; replacing a worker costs 25%-200% of their annual salary; and that in at least one survey of Canadian employees, bullying cost $180,000,000 in “lost time and productivity” (Blando, p. 3).
In the United States, is no federal law against bullying yet, but in certain cases at least, an individual may be protected if they are victimized in such a way that other federally protected rights are violated (for example, if it is combined with racial discrimination at a federally funded school). Nearly every state has both a law and a policy dealing with the educational environment.
Additionally, there is a nationwide campaign in the United States to introduce the “Healthy Workplace Bill,” which would make workplace bullying illegal and allow victims to pursue legal action both against the workplace and against the alleged offender.
Even if an employer is not yet legally bound to remove bullies from the workplace, the reasons for taking proactive steps to do so are similar in nature to those pertaining to forced/child labor. Not only is social media easy to access, free and pervasive, but the trend worldwide is for citizen to take matters into their own hands and report what they see as wrongdoing. From a risk management standpoint, ensuring a healthy workplace environment as well as an ethical labor chain is essential to maintaining goodwill and avoiding negative publicity.
In the future, as informal pacts and formal policies turn into strictly enforced national and international laws, keeping slavery and bullying out of the workplace will no doubt be essential.
If you want to build a sustainable business, don’t build it on the backs of people who are mistreated for your living.
All opinions my own.