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Taking Back the Worker?s Law

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The case outcome was based on statutory construction. Its determination and ruling was based on governing New York labor laws by the legislature. The Wal-Mart stores’ policy as codified in the stores’ 1989 Associates’ Handbook prohibits dating relationship between married employees with another employee other than their spouse. In the case, the plaintiff sought the reinstatement of two employees. The argument offered was based on the New York Labor Law that forbids prejudice against employees due to their participation in recreational activities. The role of the court therefore was to determine whether ‘a dating relationship’ was under the scope of recreational activities. The New York Labor Law defines recreational activities as ‘any lawful, leisure activity for which no compensation is offered and is engaged in for recreational purposes. It includes but not limited to sports, games, and hobbies reading and viewing of television, movies and similar material.

The dissenting judge ruled that the employment policy that only prohibits romantic relationships at the workplace and not any other forms of social interaction was actually in every respect with no merit. There is no assertion by the defendant (Wal-Mart Stores Inc.) that its two former employees displayed an amatory or intimate attitude towards each other.

The defendants’ application of its own fraternization policy was not faulted even as based on its own definition of a ‘date’ as a social engagement between persons of opposite sex(Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1988). Further, the dissenting judge retaliated that dating; whether romantic or not, was encompassed in the general definition of ‘recreation activities’ under the law. This is solely due to the fact that dating is a social activity, lawful and pursued for recreational purposes. There is no overt definition of the term ’recreational activities’ in the New York statute which is not limited to sports or hobbies. Conclusively, the judge stated that the term should be construed expansively to prevent future anonymity and dilemma.

In the court’s view, the objective of the legislature when enacting the labor law was to restrict the employers from monitoring activities of employees outside working hours. This in a spectrum was seen as a grant of freedom for the staff to conduct their lives as they please during non-working hours.

It is my feeling that the court’s dispensation was sound. This is drawn from the viewpoint that the defendant did not indicate any negative influence in performance at the workplace by the two employees. In addition, I hold on the premise that monitoring of the human resource in their personal lives is unnecessary, limiting and discriminatory. The employer should be limited to performance at the workplace and not private lives. Just as the purpose of the statute stated, the employer should be curtailed to a certain degree to safeguard the human resource’s right to privacy and discretion involving one’s personal life. Correspondingly, recreational activities such as sports or hobbies are not limited to the company of those we lack amorous interests in.

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