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My corporation just sent out an email that they will be deducting pay from everyone's paycheck for each of us to purchase a copy of our CEO's book, since his sales have been down lately. It's only $11, but it's really bothering me since it's $11 * 250 employees, or $2750 being stolen from the staff, and none of us consented to this. How would you recommend pushing back against this?

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    What strikes me about this is that $2750, while the situation is unethical and wrong... must be basically a drop in the ocean compared to the finances of a company with 250 employees. I did a very rough calculation assuming the employees are earning on average $30,000 a year. Assuming they will only buy one book in a year, thats $2750 / $7.5m which is 0.03 percent. Someone is being misled here. – seventyeightist Apr 23 at 19:13
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    Are you a member of a labour union? – gerrit Apr 24 at 8:39
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    btw, how is the company planning to send these books to each of their employees? with the addresses that they have in their database? If yes, then there are two non-consensual things happening. one buying and another dispatching to your address. – Sara Apr 24 at 10:56
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    I've posted a question on Law about the legal aspects involved here: "Can an employer apply one-off pay cuts via forced contributions?" While there is good input there this is likely still a legal gray area subject to state law as well. Do note that as a rule this site does not provide legal advice. – Lilienthal Apr 25 at 16:04
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    Can you tell them, that you already got two of them? – Helena Apr 29 at 6:42
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There are multiple ways you can handle this.

  1. Direct confrontation. Reply to that email, copying HR, saying that you do not consent to this.
  2. Indirect confrontation. If you have a manager/superior you trust, ask them to intercede. This is something that a good leader would fight on your behalf.
  3. Anonymous confrontation. Anonymously email HR saying that this is not ok and they need to not do this or it will be reported to legal authorities as it is theft.
  4. Skip trying to handle it internally and just report it to legal authorities
  5. Don't do anything and be taken advantage of. Not one I would normally pick, but sometimes you're not in a position to risk losing employment or causing problems at work
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Apr 24 at 16:50
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I would print the email (being sure that my name doesn't appear) and mail the printout to the state's Attorney General office anonymously with a printed note that this is illegal. On the letter I would note CC of the appropriate labor board and the company's HR department. I would mail the CC copies anonymously too. Then I would drop the matter. (I assume that you don't have a Union...)

If the manure does hit the rotary oscillator, you want to be as far away as possible.

  • HR is not your friend.

  • Your coworkers may pat you on the back for creating a stink about the matter and getting their $11 back, but upper level management doesn't like this sort of attention. If it was discovered that you started the brouhaha then you would have cut your throat.

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    In this case, HR might actually be your friend, or at least an ally. One of their main responsibilities is to keep the company out of legal trouble, which is potentially where this is headed – Kevin Apr 24 at 4:51
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    And, for some extra people power, I've seen people put similar e-mails on Imgur as well. There's a mob of people willing to help with companies doing things on this level of stupid/criminal. – Mast Apr 24 at 6:25
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    @Kevin - Yes, HR could help you win the battle, but you'd lose the war. – MaxW Apr 24 at 8:44
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    "this is illegal" Do you have a source on this? If applied as a pay cut to all employees this would probably not qualify as an illegal deduction. – Lilienthal Apr 24 at 12:58
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    @MaxW your answer states to report to a law enforcement agency "...with a printed note that this is illegal" and in comments you separately state " I don't know if it is illegal", questioning the quality of the answer. – user662852 Apr 24 at 20:27
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I would reply with: "No thank you".

Simple, polite, and if they do garnish your wages then you have a clear case of theft/fraud.

If it is a dumb joke from pay roll, then you called their bluff.

If you get serious back lash, you can say you were going planning to buy it yourself already (a lie, to give you time to find a job with a less toxic ceo)

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Considering the amount of money its costing I would personally go with a soft protest and have some fun with it to raise employee spirits and create some camaraderie about it. One idea already suggested is to read the book in work time. Other things could be:

  • Get as many employees as possible to to give it a 1 star review on Amazon (Anonymously). You could even explain in your review what the author/his company has done
  • Use it around the office for menial/trivial things e.g. using it as a notepad to take work notes, tearing out pages to wipe a spill etc
  • Send out a bulk email asking all employees if they want to buy a copy of your book (or a variation of that e.g. buy something of yours from etsy/buy cookies from your child etc), since the company has set a precedent for it now.
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    +1 for 1-star reviews on third-party and therefore anonymous platform. I would write something like "I had to be forced to read it." ^^ Don't like your other suggestions though - they might get the OP into trouble... – Jessica Apr 29 at 6:55
  • Why is this not the accepted answer? – Mawg says reinstate Monica May 1 at 7:20
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There is a response that everybody forgets, which is "talk to your colleagues". If enough of you refuse to buy the book and threaten court action then seriously, what is the company going to do? Fire everyone?

Forcing employees to by a book is essentially withholding wages, which is illegal in pretty much every jurisdiction.

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Since it is so important to the company that you buy this book, you are likely expected to read it at work time. I think the CEO would be really pleased that all 250 employees read his book carefully.

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    I think reading the book on company time would actually be a really funny form of protest but would probably be less effective since by then the company has already taken their money. – BSMP Apr 24 at 2:00
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    @BSMP I don't think this ever was about the money, but about the intentions. Not sure I agree with it, but this creative form of protest certainly seems rather fitting considering the magnitude of the crime. – mafu Apr 24 at 2:36
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    well, if you get paid to read the book during work hours (hopefully more than $11/hr) and you take several hours to read the book, you could call it even ;) – blurfus Apr 24 at 6:22
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    @blurfus - You are assuming that reading the book at work is a more pleasing experience than actually working. That shouldn't be taken for granted for a book that can't be sold without coercion. – Pere Apr 24 at 8:45
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    @Pere fair comment; you don't even have to actually read the book but pretend to read the book (and still take several hours to do so) – blurfus Apr 24 at 16:04
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How would you recommend pushing back against this?

Not at all.

Yes, it's wrong, it's creepy, it's unfair, it's unethical and quite possibly illegal (depending on your legislation, of course).

However, it's only $11 and any potential course of action will incur non-trivial risk & effort and is unlikely to be successful. Options include reporting to the authorities/unions, engaging a lawyer, complaining to HR, trying to stage a company wide protest, talking to the press etc. I think it's unlikely that any of these will work and they could very easily backfire.

The fact of the matter is that you work for a CEO that is either an idiot or a crook. I don't think you can change them, so your best long-term bet is to start looking for a place that's better run.

Typically I don't condone unethical behavior but it's also prudent to be mindful how you pick your battles and make sure you fight the good fight when it really matters. This seems just to trivial to spent a lot of energy on.

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    CEO that is either an idiot or a crook Can't it be both? This is definitely both stupid and illegal. – Seth R Apr 23 at 18:26
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    The problem with this is "what else". If they got away clean with this, what else would they do then? And I completely agree with the 'run' part. This company is a bad place to be, from all indications... – Fábio Dias Apr 24 at 0:20
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    @MineR: But do you really WANT to be working for a company that would try to do something like this? If they will still $11 today, what will they try to steal from you next week or next month? – jamesqf Apr 24 at 4:28
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    @Jungkook Then find another job, and then quit. The question was what do I do about a trivial albeit illegal slight - not what do I do about a long series of increasingly untenable transgressions. – MineR Apr 24 at 7:55
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    It's not the $11 which is the real problem. The problem is them thinking that this is an option. There is power being abused here. OP is just 'lucky' it's only $11. – Martijn Apr 24 at 8:46

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