It is not often that a company makes positive headlines when it comes to its social media. And it is even less often that a company will break with the belief that “the customer is always right,” particularly at a time when major retailers have decided Thanksgiving a major financial opportunity and not a holiday. But a Washington state employer made international news for standing up for his employees’ holiday rights.
The Holiday Story
The Daily Mail, a British news source, reports on Ryan Clark, co-founder of Liberty Bottleworks. Liberty Bottleworks is a small manufacturer of the “only American made metal bottle on the market.” When Clark saw a customer’s Facebook complaint about not being able to talk to a live person on the Thanksgiving weekend, he responded. The Yakima Herald reported that Liberty Bottleworks’ believed it had an ethical responsibility to speak out against the attack on its employees. Clark’s response was one of support for his employees and their right to enjoy their weekends and holidays just like everyone else. Liberty Bottleworks has a policy of “Family first, product second.” In response to Clark’s comment, Liberty Bottleworks received 10,000 new “likes” in support of the company and its owners. Additionally, the company nearly doubled its orders in the aftermath.
However, just because the complaint was poorly delivered and arguably unreasonable, does not mean that the customer was entirely wrong. The press and good public relations has helped increase sales for the business, but it also led to changes for the company. Liberty Bottleworks has said that it will be improving its customer service, particularly in customer expectation with posted hours of operation and methods of contact.
Balancing Employer Duties
Employers have a duty to both their employees and their customers. City, state and federal laws help guide employers in their duties to their employees. In Washington, state law allows employers to require weekend, holiday, and overtime as a condition of employment, in most situations. It also creates both a written and unwritten rule that employers should support the rights of its employees. For instance, an employer should support and enforce employees’ right to be paid accordingly for their work and should also take proactive steps to prevent or stop harassment both from within the company and from customers. An employer’s duty to its customer is sometimes more murky. If the customer is always right, there will likely be many conflicts between the employer’s duty to its employee and the customer. But always siding with an employee can have detrimental effects on customer service, which can be bad for business. Finding the right balance can take time. And, as seen with Liberty Bottleworks, balance can start with a company’s policy but become clearer in times of conflict.
Whatever your employer’s stance on holiday or weekends, city, state, and federal laws impose a certain level of business ethics that protect your rights. If you believe your employment rights have been violated, a HKM employment attorney can help.