The government wants you to go deer-hunting. Go ahead. Take a day off. It’s on your employer.
Well, Uncle Sam doesn’t quite put it that way. Congress just mandates that employers provide leave for “medical reasons.” Employees provide the interpretation.
Not surprisingly, medical leave requests spike on Mondays and Fridays, during the summertime, and during public holidays. Other workers take family and medical leave when their employers deny their vacation requests.
It isn’t just time off work. Some workers take leave when faced with the “serious medical condition” of working a night shift. And since the Department of Labor has interpreted the act to mean that workers can take their 12 weeks of leave in minute intervals, some workers also use the act to avoid penalties for showing up late. They can simply sleep in and claim they needed an hour of medical leave that morning.
One worker called in sick as he walked in from the parking lot. That saved him from having a tardy on his record for arriving a minute late to work, but it’s hardly family or medical leave. Many workers openly boast that they use the act to take time off work at will. Their co-workers ruefully refer to it as the Fridays and Mondays Leave Act.
Presumably many, if not most, workers don’t abuse the law. But they are the primary victims of government-sponsored deer-hunting. First, companies can pay only so much to employers with certain skills. When government mandates particular benefits — whether health care or medical leave or overtime — companies must reduce other parts of the total compensation package.
Second, when even a few employees goof off on company time, other workers get stuck with the extra burden. The temptation to join in is strong, since no one likes to be a sucker. If someone else is going hunting on company time, you can either cover for him, or go hunting yourself. It’s easy to rationalize a little cheating to get one’s “fair share.”
It’s time for a radical thought. Uncle Sam shouldn’t push one benefit or another. Rather, the government should leave the business of negotiating compensation between employer and employee. That’s really what a free economy is all about.