Stop Monkeying Around! Court Says Chimps Not Human (& Why Your Employees May Need A Vacation)

Feeling trapped at work? You’re not the only one. Just talk to Tommy, the chimpanzee living in a cage in upstate Fulton County, New York.

The former entertainment chimp has been going stir-crazy for upwards of a decade, about when he was given to his current owner, according to the BBC. Unfortunately for him, this Thursday, a New York court ruled that Tommy did not have the same legal protections as a human and must remain in captivity.

And you thought you had it bad.

The decision was handed down on Thursday, after the animal rights group Nonhuman Rights Project sued Tommy’s owner last year claiming that chimps had similar characteristics to the humans and thus deserved basic rights. One of those rights includes freedom.

Chimps “possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they’re found in human beings,” Nonhuman Rights Project president Steven Wise told Reuters last year, according to the International Business Times.

“There’s no reason why they should not be protected when they’re found in chimpanzees.”

Caged chimps around the nation (or, at least, the State of New York) are saddened today by Judge Karen Peters ruling:

“So far as legal theory is concerned, a person is any being whom the law regards as capable of rights and duties… Needless to say, unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.”

So, at roughly 40 years old, Tommy is trapped.

But you don’t have to be.

Law offices can feel sterile or stifling, which is why you need to get out once in awhile. Surveys find 40 percent of Americans leave three to seven days of vacation per year unused, according to the New York Times.

It’s time to break out of your cage. In fact, those Americans who do unchain themselves from their desks and decide to take regular vacations end up happier, say surveys.

A new Nielsen poll commissioned by Diamond Resorts International finds that 71 percent of American workers who regularly take vacations are satisfied with their jobs, according to the New York Times. Of those that do not take regular vacations, less than 50 percent report being satisfied with their jobs.

As a law firm manager, you should ensure that your employees and associates take their much-needed holiday hours. Rested, relaxed, and satisfied employees stay at firms longer and are more productive. Employees who take regular vacations have also have better overall job performance, writes OpenView (via Huffington Post).

Law firms are increasingly tightening their belts when it comes to salary and attorney partner-track promotion, so now is the time to provide compensation in other ways. If your firm can’t afford bonuses this year, try giving extra vacation days.

You’ll find that employees will return to work with better attitudes and even work longer hours as a result. Plus, a boost in office morale has no price tag.

However, every monkey needs a banana. You may find employees are reluctant to take time off. Employees sometimes feel that their employer does not really want them to leave the office, or that—in their absence—they will be replaced or made redundant.

This is why some companies have created oddly innovative incentives to push employees to take vacation, according to OpenView (via Huffington Post):

  • FullContact, a Denver Software company, pays employees $7,500 to go on vacation, disconnect entirely and not work at all.
  • Evernote gives employees a $1,000 to take off days in at least 1 week increments.
  • Netflix offers an unlimited vacation policy as long as employees get their work done.

If your firm can’t offer more days off, then consider implementing a telecommute policy. Sometimes just working from home can feel like a stay-cation.

In the end, companies need to find a policy that fits its unique corporate culture. Poll your associates to find out why, exactly, they’re not taking all of their vacation days off.

Sometimes the only bars that imprison us are the ones we put up ourselves.

Check out more creative ideas for employee compensation with C4CM’s audio course, “Associate Compensation: Leveraging Hybrid Methods that Combine Lockstep with Merit-Based Tiers.”

In just 75 minutes, our expert faculty will examine the key factors in associate compensation that contribute to firms staying competitive and profitable in this rapidly shifting environment, including:

  • Why change? How client demands are fueling the rapid fire changes to associate tracks
  • Details on the types of alternatives to pure lock-step compensation models and how these alternatives compensate associates
  • Ways to develop and manage meaningful criteria for promotions outside of lock-step
  • Crucial performance review criteria to include in your merit-based compensation system
  • Beyond compensation increases, what matters most to associates, mid-levels and partners
  • Where firms have failed when it comes to associate compensation overhauls and how to avoid their compensation mistakes

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