Friday, January 3, 2014

Bad HR on TV: Mystery Diners

This may be a well documented phenomenon, but with winter break and no internship or work for the first time in 9 years, I have nothing to do all day.  So, I'm watching a bunch of bad reality TV shows.  Food Network has a show called Mystery Diners.  Not only is it highly unlikely that this is a real show, but my fear is that people may watch these shows and assume that what is happening is legal, ethical, and more than a marketing ploy.

Case in point is the Cheeseburger Baby episode that aired at 3:30 this afternoon that has me a bit riled up.  Owners suspect that the ex-con that they hired has been stealing, try to entrap him, but while monitoring him, discovers that a waitress has been the one stealing from the till.  Ooh... what will Charles Stiles (whoever that is) and the owners do?  It almost makes for compelling TV, but not entirely.

First of all, the easiest way for the owners to stop theft is to lock the cash office (seriously?  It's in an open cabinet?), restricting access to the manager, and giving each cashier a till.  This state-of-the-art system has been standard practice since the mid-1990s, when I had the crappy retail job in high school that encourages all to never work retail again.  Maybe a security camera in the cash office, too, especially if you are located in a city like Miami.  Yeah, it might be problematic to have security cameras all over the place, but it's not illegal.  These are areas where employees do not have a reasonable expectation to privacy like a bathroom or locker room.  It is concerning that employees are under video monitoring without notification.  However, to fix the problem, a notice that the cash office is under surveillance (or a camera in plain sight with a red blinking light) gets around most privacy laws for most states.  That the sting relied on manufactured situations that boarder on entrapment leads one to question the ethics f the situation.  Sure, not illegal.  But, if Guillermo the Ex-Con had fallen for one of these ploys and this led the owners to state that he was probably behind the other thefts, then there would be a huge-ass defamation lawsuit in the works.  Fortunately, this didn't happen.  It would have made for bad TV.

At the end, there is a major violation of privacy when the owner rips the fanny pack off "Christia"'s body and examines the contents.  Here, the employee DOES have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  It's tantamount to looking through the employee's clothing.  THAT is not allowable.  If there was evidence, and this had been a real situation, then the police should have been called and an investigation ensued.  Otherwise, huge-ass lawsuit.  Oh, none was filed?  Yeah, there's a reason for that.  Worse, even if you think this is fake, you may believe that employees have the right to frisk employees and seize property.

So, no, the ex-con is not responsible.  Aren't the owners wonderful for giving this guy a second chance?  Aw.  What wonderful employers!  In fact, that's what this show is trying to do: it reinforces that small businessmen are tiny gods, whose failure at business could only be because of the bad, no good, evil low-wage employees who thwart their boss' God-given right to a profitable business.  It's BS.  But it's not the only show that reinforces these stereotypes. 

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