DT23: At-Will EmploymentMany states, Alabama included, provide that employees are hire as “at-will” employees unless they are given a contract to the contrary or their employment is subject to a bargaining agreement that states to the contrary. In general terms, “at-will employment” means that an employer can terminate an employee for a good cause, a bad cause, or no cause, but not an illegal cause. In other words, the boss can walk in one morning and say, “A, B, and C. You three are fired. Now leave.” No reason need be given. In fact, in some States, if a reason for termination is given, then the terminated employee is entitled to a “for cause” hearing because being terminated for a reason has an impact on a person’s name, character, or reputation; whereas simply being terminated does not. At-will employment laws put all of the power under the control of the employer. Should the law be changed? Is “at-will” employment wrong or is it still a useful management tool?DT24: Workers’ CompensationProtection of workers injured on the job is a good issue to consider as we close out the employment law unit. The question is this: You have an employee, a carpenter, using a radial arm saw (the kind of electric saw that moves back and forth over the material being cut). The employee is cutting wood to use in building a cabinet but gets careless and cuts off the index finger on his left hand at the knuckle. The saw is old, there are no warning labels, and the safety guard has been removed long ago; however, the employee has been using that particular radial arm saw for several years. Under Workers’ Compensation statutes (use Alabama’s since you can find it on the web) and assuming that your employee is making $25/hour, how much is an index finger worth? Should this be the only remedy for the employee so injured on the job?DT25: Affirmative ActionLet’s take a hot topic for our last DT in Unit 3—affirmative action. Your textbook covers briefly Bakke, Adarand, and Hopwood, among others. Some would offer that affirmative action has outlived its usefulness, that it is no longer needed and should be judicially or legislatively set aside. What is affirmative action? Is it ‘dead’? Or, is there still a need for affirmative action in the 21 Century?DT26: Federal agencies This DT is a bit long, so bear with me. There is a question here somewhere. The courts have seriously considered the extent to which Congress can delegate its powers to third parties only in this century. In 1904, the United States Supreme Court first declared that the test of whether a delegation is proper is if Congress establishes ascertainable “standards” that outline the limits of the agency’s discretion. Supreme Court decisions in the 1920s held that Congress could delegate only gap-filling powers to administrative agencies. In other words, Congress would pass a law expressed in general terms, and the agency would fill in the “gaps” by creating regulations to implement the law. This approach was prompted by the perception that Congress’s ability to oversee directly the implementation of particular laws is limited and that specialized agencies are better able to regulate areas involving technical questions. The Court extended great deference to such delegations by Congress. This attitude changed with the 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The rapid disintegration of the national economy caused the unemployment rate to rise to 25 percent, and bank failures, bankruptcies, and foreclosures became commonplace. Public pressure for government action resulted in the creation of a number of programs designed to jump-start the economy and reverse its deflationary spiral. Foremost among efforts to pump up prices and wages was the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which gave the president unprecedented powers to manage the economy through the formulation of “fair-competition” codes. These codes would be drawn up by trade or industrial groups and become law on the approval of the president so long as they did not result in the creation of unlawful monopoly power. The question is: Are the legislative and administrative branches of the federal government using federal agencies as a means to expand their powers at a loss to the judicial branch? DT27: Deceptive advertisingDuring parts of July and August, 2009, the federal government implemented a ‘cash for clunkers’ program to stimulate the economy and make the US highways a bit safer. Was, in fact, the ‘cash for clunkers’ program as it finally landed at the car dealerships just another form of deceptive advertising? That is, a scam on the US taxpayer? Why or why not?DT28: The environmentIssues of the environment and global warming have taken a backseat to the economy recently. Former VP Al Gore raised awareness about global warming and the roles of business, government, and industry. President Obama’s administration seems will to consider such issuses. Who knows how it will rank with war, health care, and the economy. Certainly, the business sector faces pressure from both internal and external stakeholders when the banner of environmental protection is hoisted.Beyond the legislative mandates (EPA, etc), how far should corporate responsibility for the environment extend? For example, do you believe that trees, lakes, oceans, and animals should have rights or are ‘non-humans’ not worthy of protection?DT29: Eminent DomainBy now you probably are (or should be) focusing on the end of the term. Let’s look into Chapter 22 and consider eminent domain—the right of a government (the sovereign) to take private property (land) for the public good. Historically, the exercise of eminent domain has been limited to the taking of private lands for public works projects—roads, schools, water treatment projects, etc. Within the past couple of years in the Northeast, a city took (via its power of eminent domain) private land to be used for private commercial purposes as a means to increase the municipality’s tax base (i.e., taking family homes for the construction of a Wal-Mart, although this was not exactly the case in this instance). The US Supreme Court upheld the city’s action reasoning that the State had not limited a municipality’s power of eminent domain. Is the use of eminent domain for the purpose of taking private lands for commercial development a justifiable use of such power? What are the pros and cons?DT30: Promoting competitionLet’s consider the issue of promoting competition—sounds like a core US value. Competition is good for the consumer and good for business, but is it really? Wal-Mart has done wonders in providing low cost goods to help consumers manage tight budgets but is the mega-retailer really good for the economy? Some would argue that when Wal-Mart comes into a small town, locally owned businesses dry up and are forced to close and that most of the money spent by consumers at Wal-Mart does not stay in the local community. Maybe Wal-Mart has gotten too big for government (federal or local) to control. The same could be said about the oil and gasoline industry—prices seem to fluctuate without any relationship to the needs of the consumers, who many times do not have an alternative. My question is this, where should the line be drawn between promoting competition and regulation of business? Should the federal government be more active in the regulation of such giants as Wal-Mart or the oil and gas industry or will open competition prove to be in the best interests of the consumer? DT31: Bernie MadoffQuestion: During the summer of 2009, Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 125 (or more) years for his ponzi scam that took billions of dollars from investors. These investors placed their faith and trust in Madoff. Some pundits say that the regulators (i.e. SEC regulators) were too close to Madoff and his chief financial officer. What is the answer to preventing another Madoff or Enron or WorldCom or HealthSouth scandal? Does the Internet make investors any more or less safe?