Thursday, February 24, 2011


This story was getting a lot of attention in certain blog circles a couple of days ago:

WOODBURY, Tenn. -- A local business is now apologizing, and making amends after suspending a woman for answering a phone call from her son serving in Afghanistan.

Teresa Danford says she knew about the no cell phone rule at the Crane Interiors factory in Woodbury; but because her son, Lance Corporal Mark Ryhne, only has access to a satellite phone once a month, she didn't think twice about taking the call last week when he called during business hours.

That decision resulted in Danford's three-day suspension without pay. If it happened again, managers threatened to fire her. Since a story about her situation aired on NewsChannel 5 Thursday, the factory has received threats and harassing phone calls.

Now the general manager is apologizing, and taking back Danford's suspension. Danford will be paid for the days she didn't work, and Crane Interiors has revised it's no cell phone policy....

When Teresa Danford was suspended for taking this call ("'You don't want to miss a word because truthfully that might be the last time you hear from them,' Danford said"), there was anger at blogs such as Blackfive and Support Your Local Gunfighter; an online petition got more than 3600 signatures in a matter of days. The company wisely changed its policy and made amends to Danford.

But, really, what prevents companies from having harsh, inflexible policies such as Crane's old one? And what would happen if, as a society, we decided that we really shouldn't allow employers to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in situations like this? What if we tried to protect military families with a law?

Don't you think teabaggers and folks like Rand Paul would conclude that this was a horrific big-government intrusion on the rights of free entrepreneurs to run their businesses as they see fit? Don't you think Megan McArdle would take to her blog at The Atlantic to denounce the measure -- McArdle, who recently proclaimed,

To start with, there is really no such thing as "paid" vacation; your employer is paying you for the work you've done, not for spending a week on the beach in Cabo. You're just spreading a slightly higher average hourly wage over a longer period, so it seems like you're taking a lower wage in exchange for more days off. Moreover, these days off often have an additional cost to employers--there are efficiency losses because you're not around to coordinate with other employees, and they may have to hire a substitute, who is unlikely to be as productive as the worker that they are temporarily replacing.

Similarly, work rules that reduce productivity mean that more employees must be hired at extra cost.

A law protecting military moms taking sat-phone calls from their children in war zones? Think of the efficiency losses!

Yeah, we have a law protecting servicemembers' civilian jobs -- but it was passed in 1994, when we had a Democratic president and Congress. Yeah, we have a law protecting saervicemembers from civil suits while they're deployed -- but that Bush-era law was a revision of a 1940 law that, in turn, updates laws dating back to World War I and the Civil War -- and the law hasn't always protected servicemembers from scummy banks seeking foreclosures. In any case, I don't think the laws on the books are much precedent. It's a new day! America demands small government! Don't tread on my employer!

Though if I were the Democrats in Congress, I'd put forward legislation to protect family members like Teresa Danford -- and dare the congressional Randians to vote no.

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