Employer and Employee Relationships – Labor Law

Introduction

Employer employee relationships are defined as the types of relations that exist within the work place for most organizations. The relationship that existed between employers and employees in the past was mostly based on the assumption that employers were the owners of companies and they therefore had the authority and power to dictate the terms of employment when it came to their employees.

In 1930, employees had limited number of laws that would protect their interests within the place of employment and they were therefore subjected to mistreatment and manipulation by their employers.

The relationship between the employer and employee saw the employer not valuing the loyalty of the employee to the organization and also not looking for ways to increase the satisfaction of the employee within the work place. Employers were also not determined to establish any employer-employee relationships within the organization which contributed to the poor working conditions the employees were subjected to (Gennard & Judge, 2005).

This situation did not however last for long with the introduction of trade and labor unions where employees had the opportunity to air their grievances with regards to their working conditions and their employers. Labor union officials were to able identify the employer-employee relationships that existed during that time by calling on the government to enact laws that would cater for employee rights within the organization.

Better relationships meant better employee satisfaction with their job as well as increased employee loyalty. In the United States, the federal government enacted the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1930 which required all employers to ensure that their employees had fair wages and compensation for their work as well as safe working conditions (Gennard & Judge, 2005).

After this act was enacted, the federal government in the country formulated and implemented laws that would forbid employers from discriminating against women and employees who were advanced in their age. In 1970, the US government enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) that would be used by employers to establish minimum working standards within the workplace.

Other laws that followed included those that ensured employees were not subjected to any forms of discrimination in their work place based on their religion, ethnicity, disability, gender or social ranking within the organization and also in the society. The enactment of such laws ensured that employee-employer relationships were maintained on a positive note within many organizations in the United States to ensure that the employees worked in a conducive environment (Gennard & Judge, 2005).

In terms of research into the relationship that exists between the two, scholars have conceptualized the employer-employee relationship to include conflicts of interests and the form of these conflicts of interests. Various studies have shown that the labour market provides a form of mediation between the conflicts of interest that arise between employers and employees in the organization to ensure that they are able to find equilibrium for their relationship.

Employer-employee relationships are therefore important for the successful running of an organization (Gennard &Judge, 2005). The purpose of this essay will be to examine the relationship of employers and employees within organizations by examining the ethical implications of employee drug testing, restricting the use of the Internet in the workplace, spying on the employee’s Internet activities and monitoring their whereabouts within and outside the organization.

These aspects will be examined by focusing on employee-employer relationships in the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern countries.

Employer-Employee Relationship in the Middle East

In most of the Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates, capitalism, industrialization and urbanization which have affected most of the working nations in the world have not in any way altered the cultural value systems of most employees in the Middle East where the working culture is mostly focused on human relations.

The economic progress that has been witnessed in most of these countries especially the United Arab Emirates has mostly been achieved through the maintenance of employer-employee relationships within the organizations. The concept of capitalism has been modified by most corporations in the Middle East to reflect the cultural values and human-relatedness belief systems of most societies and communities in the Middle Eastern countries (Stevens & Gielen, 2007).

The type of employee employer relationships that exist in most multinational and domestic corporations in the UAE are mostly based on family values and familial relationships. These types of relationships are in sharp contrast with those that exist in most western countries where the emphasis is placed on individual employee rights, competitive environments and contractual employer employee relationships.

Most of the companies and governments in the Middle East encourage a paternalistic working environment where employers cooperate with their employees to ensure the organizational activities are performed at maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

The interests of employees within most corporations in the UAE are taken care of in the same way parents take care of their children’s personal wellbeing. Employers ensure that employees are working in environments that are safe and conducive for their particular type of job (Stevens & Gielen, 2007).

In return, employees are expected to demonstrate loyalty and commitment to the organization by performing their work duties in an efficient manner and also ensuring they follow the instructions issued by their employers. In the United Arab Emirates, the UAE Labor Law (LL) generally deals with the relationships that exist between employers and employees within the organizations apart from government workers, members of the United Arab Emirates armed forces, agricultural workers and domestic or household servants.

The law provides provisions that are used to govern the working hours for employees, the employer/employee relationship within the organization, compensation, salaries and wages, medical benefits, leave days and termination of employment contracts. The law basically covers of all aspects of employment in the UAE since there are no trade unions and labor unions (Brill, 2003).

Employee Drug Testing

The drug testing of employees in the work place involves conducting a technical analysis of biological specimens collected from the employees such as their urine, hair, blood, sweat or other bodily fluids. Drug tests are usually conducted on employees to determine if there is the presence of illegal drugs such as steroids, cocaine, marijuana or heroin in the employee’s system.

The most common types of drug tests that are performed within organizations include pre-employment testing, periodic or random drug testing, testing on the suspicion that an employee is abusing drugs, testing with relation to transfers or promotions and voluntary drug testing (Kintz, 2006).

Drug testing within organizations has become an important activity given the increasing number of employees that are drug abusers, alcoholics and abusers of other dangerous substances. The limited studies and research work conducted on drug abuse in the Middle East and the UAE have shown that drug abuse in most of the Middle Eastern countries is rampant and that volatile substance abuse is a common occurrence especially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran.

The only study on drug abuse in the UAE was conducted by Younis and Saad in 1994 where the results revealed that 23 percent of the participants were alcohol abusers while 27 percent abused drugs like Heroin, Cocaine and Marijuana. Of this percentage, 5 percent were full time employed substance abusers who had a long history of substance abuse. They however did not lose their jobs because of the drug abuse which meant that their productivity and general output was low (Taha, 2001).

These drug statistics are relatively low when compared to those of employees in America which have been estimated to be 11.5 percent of all part time employees above the age of 18 years who are abusing drugs. Such statistics clearly indicate that people who are substance abusers are in either full time or part time employment which paints a grim picture for the organization.

This is because the rest of the employees within the organization will be subjected to the drug related issues of the substance abuser lowering their work productivity and the general output of the organization. Employee drug testing therefore becomes an important activity for most organizations as the end results will ensure that the workplace environment is free from any drug and substance abusers.

Employers who conduct drug testing usually do so with the main aim of improving the overall productivity of employees within the organization. It proves to be an important exercise especially in the event an organization has a large number of workers who are substance or drug abusers (Taha, 2001).

While most employers view drug testing within the organization to be an important exercise, employees view it to be an infringement of their work rights which leads to various ethical implications within the work place. Work place drug testing is still a very sensitive issue for many employers because of the difficulty that exists in balancing between employee safety and meeting the productivity requirements of most employees within the organization.

It creates a lot of ethical implications for most organizational managers especially if there is a collision between the interests of the individual employee and the employer. Employees also feel that their personal liberty, integrity and dignity is put to question when they are subjected to random and infrequent drug tests by their employers (Shahandeh & Caborn, 2003).

The moral arguments that have been presented in support of drug testing within organizations have revealed that because the general nature of drugs is illegal, employees who engage in drug or substance abuse are termed to be morally irresponsible and unable to perform their work duties. Employers in such a case have to conduct employee drug testing activities to ensure that employees are not under any illegal drugs or alcoholic substances while they are performing their work duties.

They however have to take into consideration the ethical implications of drug testing to ensure they do not contravene on an employee’s rights. As stated earlier, while most employers might find drug testing to be an important exercise, employees might see it to be a transgression on their ethical limits within the workplace (Shahandeh & Caborn, 2003).

The major moral issue that complicates business ethics within an organization is that drug testing is seen as a violation of individual’s right to privacy in the workplace. Many people hold the opinion that substance abuse is a private matter that needs to be dealt with by the employee or individual without the knowledge of others. Therefore, if drug testing is made a mandatory exercise within an organization, the employee might view this to be a violation or invasion of their privacy.

It falls on the employer to ensure that the results of the drug test are kept confidential to guarantee the privacy of the individual. Drug testing that is not accepted by all employees within an organization might lead to high cases of job dissatisfaction, low morale and decreased motivation levels.

The existence of widespread discontentment within an organization as a result of drug testing might contribute to disappointment amongst employees who view the practice as a punitive rather than reformative measure (Shahandeh & Caborn, 2003).

Restriction of Internet use in the Workplace

The increasing use of the Internet for many business activities has meant that more and more employees within an organization spend their time online. While some use the Internet for business activities, others use it for their own personal activities such as visiting social networking sites, doing online shopping, looking for other forms of employment, reading online news, making travel arrangements or playing online games.

According to Anandarajan and Simmers (2004), the number of employees who used the Internet for their own personal activities accounted for about 50 percent of the world wide workforce population. Personal web usage (PWU) according to the two authors was therefore seen as a negative influence that contributed in a significant way to low productivity levels among employees as well as misuse of company property.

As more and more businesses around the world embrace the use of the Internet as an important tool in conducting business, employers are faced with the major challenge of dealing with personal web usage by their employees to ensure that their work does not suffer in any way. Personal web usage also presents a challenge to most managers and supervisors within organizations because of the costs that are incurred from employees who utilize company web resources for their own personal benefit.

This added to the cost incurred as a result of lost productivity and network overload presents a major challenge for many managers. The general view that most managers have on personal web usage during working hours is that it presents a variation of dysfunctional behavior within the work place (Anandarajan & Simmers, 2004).

The reasons why personal web usage has increased in the work place is because of subconscious problem solving where employees revert to the Internet as a break from strenuous or challenging work tasks. Personal web usage reduces the levels of employee stress by providing a sense of relief for employees and also inspiring their creative ability. Anandarajan and Simmers (2004) highlight another reason why employees engage in personal web usage to be attributed to the management of increasingly blended work and personal lives.

Web usage during work hours allows employees to manage their personal tasks which have been misplaced by increasing work demands as employees perform their work duties. Personal web usage according to the authors also contributes to the continuous learning of employees as more and more employees go back to school to acquire additional educational qualifications that will contribute to their career progression within the organization.

Many line managers and supervisors view personal web usage to be a form of theft since employees use company resources to browse through the Web and they also see it as wasting company time as the employee is meant to be performing company business instead of pursuing their own personal interests.

These managers therefore incorporate Internet monitoring policies and networks that will allow them to check on the Web usage of their employees to determine if they are using the workplace Internet for their own personal gain (Anandarajan & Simmers, 2004).

In many Middle East countries, organizations through the government control the use of Internet in the workplace as a form of censorship. The government policies in the Middle East prevent information flow from the World Wide Web as a way of ensuring that offensive information is kept away from the general population in most Middle East countries.

However, despite government restrictions, Internet usage in the region has grown considerably over the past decade with countries such as Oman fast becoming members of the worldwide Internet community. In the United Arab Emirates, the number of Internet subscribers in the country rose to 10,000 according to 1996 statistics which was seen to be a remarkable growth when compared to the previous year’s statistics of 2,500 Internet subscribers.

Israel has been identified as the leading country with the highest number of Internet subscribers in both the Middle East and the whole world. This increased Web usage has mostly been attributed to the growing technological industry in many Middle East countries such as Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel which has also contributed to the significant number of people who use the Internet (Shuji, 1997).

The ethical implications that accompany Internet restriction within most organizations have created a lot of controversial debates that have made the establishment of Internet restriction policies within the workplace to be an uncertain solution. This is mostly attributed to the increasing use of the Web by most organizations around the world where employees are encouraged to perform business activities through the use Web.

The ethical uncertainty has also been attributed to the few rules and regulations that exist within organizations that can be used to govern the Internet behavior of employees. The scope of Internet usage in most organizations is done on a daily basis which means that using the Web is a part of an employee’s work life (Anandarajan & Simmers, 2004).

While limited research has been conducted on the ethical implications of restricting Internet use in most Middle East companies, the general consensus is that Internet restriction and monitoring of employee personal web usage is an invasion of the individual’s privacy within the workplace. While employers implement Internet monitoring networks within organizations to minimize the personal web usage of employees, most workers view this as a limitation to their personal freedom of using the Internet.

The ethical implications of restricting Internet usage in the workplace for the employer usually arises when it comes to determining which activities are work related and which are not work-related. The sheer scope of Internet usage in the organization makes Internet monitoring a very difficult activity given that most business operations are now Web-enabled.

For example, the maintenance of medical records for large organizations that have many employees is mostly done online together with payment schedules and also Internet security management frameworks. The task of untangling the ethical considerations for Internet usage in the workplace becomes a challenge for the manager when employees performing either of the activities engage in unchecked ethical violations (Anandarajan & Simmers, 2004).

E-commerce presents a lot of ethical implications for managers within organizations especially in the fields of online marketing and selling where employees are required to engage in social networking so as to acquire new clients for the company. To gain customers, most online marketers involve the use of social forums such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace where they market the company’s products while at the same time socializing with various online users at the same time.

The ethical implication for the manager in such a situation becomes how to untangle the socializing activities of the marketer to ensure that they are conducted for the overall benefit of the organization. While the marketer might argue that they are just doing their job, the manager might view their use of Twitter to be in contravention of their work schedule which leads to an ethical issue ((Anandarajan & Simmers, 2004).

Another ethical implication that arises from monitoring the Internet usage of employees is the invasion of employee’s privacy where workers who are subjected to Internet monitoring feel that their privacy in the workplace is being infringed upon their employers. Most Internet surveillance systems implemented in many organizations usually monitor the web usage of employees every time they go online.

Through these systems, the employer is able to detect any Internet usage that is not work related as well as identify the employees who engage in personal web usage during official work hours. While this might help the manager to identify Internet misuse within the organization, it might lead to cases of privacy invasion for employees who do not like their work activities monitored by their bosses (Anandarajan & Simmers, 2004).

E-mailing which is the most commonly used Internet application in the workplace has been subjected to monitoring by many organizational managers as employees spend a significant amount of time responding to their emails. The ethical implication for managers in such a situation arises when employees use various emailing services available over the Internet to conduct their business operations.

Another ethical issue emerges when employees are not comfortable with the idea of having their emails checked or monitored y their bosses. At times, employees use their company emails to distribute personal information about themselves or others to their coworkers in the organization.

Company emails have been fodder for office gossip where employees pass information about certain office workers engaged in misconduct or inappropriate behavior to their colleagues. In the event a misconduct case is brought up, employees who circulated the email might find themselves in trouble even though they did not engage in the misconduct in the first place (Anandarajan & Simmers, 2004).

The limited amount of data or research work on Internet restriction in various work places in the Middle East makes it difficult to ascertain the ethical implications of restriction on the managers of companies in the Arabic region. As mentioned earlier in the discussion, majority of the Middle Eastern governments have placed restrictions on the use of the Internet in the workplace.

According to Shuji (1997), Internet restriction in the United Arab Emirates has seen the government involve the services of Emirates Internet, which is the official sole Internet provider of the UAE, to censor and restrict Internet usage within organizations, businesses and institutions of learning. This means that if any ethical implications arose as a result of Internet restriction within UAE organizations, employees would have to deal directly with the government instead of their employers (Shuji, 1997).

Monitoring Employees Whereabouts within the Organization

The growing technological market around the world has seen the introduction of monitoring devices that are used by employers to track the whereabouts of employees within and outside the organization. The most commonly used monitoring and tracking system devices include global positioning systems and the sensory networks which monitor the exact location of a person inside and outside the organization.

Employers usually result to employee monitoring and tracking when employees constantly leave their work stations to attend to other business within or outside the organization. They also use global positioning tracking systems to detect the specific location of employees who have been absent from work for a long period of time. Having location awareness of an employee presents a lot of ethical implications for most employers as it is seen to be an invasion of a person’s privacy (Camardella, 2003).

The ethical implications that arise from employee monitoring within organizations is usually based on the employer’s behavior which accompanies employee monitoring. As there are no studies that have been conducted on the ethical implications of employee monitoring in the Middle East and the United Arab Emirates, this study will examine the ethical implications of this activity based on research conducted in the United States.

According to Kaupins and Minch (2005), the ethical implications of employee monitoring by employers within organizations creates security problems especially in an organization that experiences questionable employee activities. Employees might go to parts of the company where they have unauthorized access or they might be monitored to restrict the amount of information that they transfer through the use of their emails to other people who are outside the organization.

Another ethical implication that arises as a result of employer to employee location awareness is the invasion of their privacy where according to US law employees are subject to their rights within the workplace. For an employer, the ethical implication in such a case usually arises because employees attend to business and non-business related matters during a work day (Kaupins and Minch, 2005). An accountant working for a profit making organization might decide to make a trip to the bank to deposit the cash earnings for the day.

This might be a legitimate undertaking of company business but the ethical implication arises when the employer monitors the activities of the accountant when they make a trip to the bank during lunch hours to conduct their own personal transactions. According to James (2004), some managers might not resist the urge to monitor their employees during work and after work hours. This creates an oppressive work environment in the organization where employees are unable to move around freely within the organization.

Another ethical implication of employee monitoring within the organization is the accuracy of the monitoring systems in detecting the location of the employee within the organization. Some of these devices might be unable to provide accurate information on the whereabouts of employees which means that they are prone to providing inaccurate information.

An employee might be located talking to their friend who might be a competitor or they might be detected near a bar which might paint a negative picture in the eyes of the employer. Location awareness monitoring systems also present inconsistency problems where the true location of the employee might be misrepresented to the employer or the true actions of the employee might be misinterpreted by the employer of the company.

The ethical implication arises when managers fail to define the prohibited locations to their employees when conducting their location monitoring activities which means that detecting employee infractions might be done in an illegitimate way.

The intrusions into another person’s privacy within an organization create an environment of distrust and hostility directed towards the employee’s employers (James, 2004). Employers therefore have to find a balance where location monitoring does not become an infringement on the rights of an employee.

Conclusion

This discussion has dealt with employer-employee relationships with particular focus on the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the Middle East. The research examined the ethical implications of employee drug testing, Internet restrictions in the workplace, monitoring of employee’s emails and monitoring their whereabouts within and outside the organization.

While the amount of research conducted on the above aspects with relation to the Middle East was limited, the study was able to ascertain the ethical implications of each of the mentioned aspects on the wellbeing of the employee within the organization by referring to studies conducted in other countries such as the United States. More research needs to be conducted on the topic to ensure that the above implications reflect employer-employee relationships in the Middle East.

References

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Kaupins, G., & Minch, R. (2005). Legal and ethical implications of employee location monitoring. Idaho, US: Boise State University, Department of Management.

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