This question initially comes off as a catch-22. Company policy strictly prohibits child labor, and that does not take into account what child labor laws may be present. The girl absolutely cannot keep working on the factory floor. For a point of reference, violation of child labor laws in the United States carries a fine of $10,000, with a second violation resulting in imprisonment (www.dol.gov). The company’s policy is an entirely different matter, and the country where the factory is located may have completely different labor laws, but that information serves as a nice starting point for understanding the ramifications at the corporate level.
On the other hand, sending the girl on her own will put her in a very bad position. As the question states, no social services and no family exist for this young girl. She will have nowhere to go and no money, and she will soon wonder where her next meal will come from.
It is a clash of two ideas – as the executive, do I follow the company rules regarding child labor, or do I show compassion, bend the rules, and allow this girl to earn a living illegally?
As with all of these discussion questions, a lot of information is not given. In this case, let’s assume that this organization is successful and generates lots of jobs and revenue in an otherwise poor nation. The girl’s continued employment at the factory is not an option, but we also cannot let her walk away with anything. This is ignoring the very human element of the situation. A measure of compassion is essential in running a business well – it can foster relationships with workers and create a positive work environment. Sending this girl off on her own would show the opposite. As Burnett (2019) notes, businesses that lack compassion and kindness have, “Turnover rate spikes, training becomes a never-ending cycle, and employee morale plummets” (medium.com). This girl would surely have co-workers who know her and value her as a person and fellow employee. Getting rid of her callously could cause a minor mutiny in the ranks.
I would propose a third option, one which utilizes the organization’s assets to make sure the girl receives the aid she needs. The organization can be a frontrunner in establishing a charitable arm of the company which seeks to provide food, shelter, and other basic needs to those who do not have families or access to social services. A part of this organization would be the potential to offer children participating in these non-profit extension jobs as soon as they reach a legal labor age.
Another option would be to examine the culture of the factory and the surrounding area and look at it through the lens of the five dimensions of culture in the workplace. For this girl and her situation, the individualism versus collectivism dimension should be considered. “In such societies [where collectivism was emphasized], people were born into collectives, such as extended families, and everyone was supposed to look after the interest of his or her collective” (Hill, 2018, p. 115). In reference to the comment above about the girl’s co-workers, perhaps one or more of them might be able to take her in and help her out? Her co-workers would know her best and be most sympathetic to her situation.
Regardless of the solution, the girl cannot work at the factory any longer but she also needs help. Her situation cannot be ignored and needs to be addressed with a solution that keeps the company operating within legal boundaries while showing the girl a measure of consideration and compassion.
Burnett, Ric. (2019). Can You Run A Successful Business and Be Compassionate at the Same Time? Retrieved from https://medium.com/better-marketing/can-you-run-a-successful-business-and-be-compassionate-at-the-same-time-ad1197afdca6
U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Enforcement. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/youthlabor/enforcement
Hill, C.W. (2018). International Business: Competing in the Global Marketplace (12th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education.
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