I'm sorry, but I can't come to work this year

The Madison County Record Jul. 17, 2011, 7:25am

Labor is often the biggest expense of a business, and trying to keep that cost under control, its biggest concern.

Hiring the right number of employees can be tricky. Trying to get by with fewer than is needed may be tempting, but it's counterproductive if staff can't handle the workload and the quality of products or services suffers.

Hiring too many employees even can be worse. The costs of those extra workers may exceed their salaries and benefits if occasional or regular idleness undermines the morale and efficiency of the entire staff.

It's the delicate balance between those two extremes that good bosses constantly strive to maintain. The smaller the company, the more delicate the balance.

"Should I add another person?" "Should I let someone go?" Those are important, difficult questions that many business owners ask and answer frequently.

"Should I pay someone who's not actually doing anything?" is not a hard question. There's no sense in that at all. Yet, employment law sometimes compels a business owner to do just that.

Pam Good of Troy was working for a bi-state photo studio when she fell and injured her ankle at its St. Ann, Mo. location in December 2008. She took off for nearly a year to recuperate, during which time she filed for workers' compensation.

After she returned to work in November 2009, Good was demoted from studio manager to associate. A couple of months later, she was fired.

In June of this year, Good filed suit against her employer in Madison County Circuit Court, charging that she was terminated because of her workers' comp claim -- and because of age and sex discrimination.

We're sorry Good hurt her ankle and couldn't go to work for nearly a year. But we also sympathize with her employer, who had to find someone to replace her in the interval and also continue to compensate an employee who wasn't working.

Making things more difficult for employers, particularly in small companies, can end up making things more difficult for the employees as well.

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