A Privilege, Not A Right

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A high-performing landscaper from Maryland called me the other day to talk about a Field Supervisor (i.e., oversees multiple grounds maintenance crews) who has recently developed a penchant for driving well beyond (i.e., 95 mph) the legally-acceptable speed limit on his daily commute, in a company truck.

Strategic as always, several years ago, this landscaping company heeded my advice and invested in a GPS program that has since been installed on every company vehicle. But wait, it gets better. They actually review the daily data reports generated by the GPS. Imagine that! Using the data the software system compiles for the end user to evaluate. But wait, it gets better. The company actually holds drivers accountable for the data the software system compiles thereby maintaining the integrity and cost containment impact of its Vehicle Safety Insurance Program!

Funny how technology works.

Especially when companies use the technology they paid for in the first place.

Due to the pattern of high-speed driving, as well as implied (i.e., possible liability due to an accident) and derived (i.e., bad role modeling behavior as part of the company culture) impact, it was decided the company would revoke the Field Supervisor’s vehicle take-home privilege for one month, in so doing, requiring him to drive his personal vehicle to/from work each day, and then use a company vehicle for all daily job-related travel during work hours. Parenthetically, don’t think that daily observation went unnoticed by the other field employees.

“Yes.” You read that right: vehicle take-home “privilege.” Despite what many employees expect and most companies believe, driving a company vehicle is actually a privilege granted by the company, at its sole discretion, to the employees to complete their job duties. Regardless of their histrionic remonstrations, employees do not have a “right” to drive a company vehicle, at any time, for any reason. Industry-wide common practice does not equate to company consent.

Think about it. If your company had a driver who repeatedly drove 95 mph, and heaven forbid, caused a serious, if not fatal vehicle accident, and as part of the evidentiary discovery process, the prosecution attorney reviewed the vehicle’s GPS data records that your company was accountable for tracking, yet did nothing about those repeated, unsafe, and illegal driving practices, what do you think the attorney would allege against your vehicle insurance provider and your landscape company in specific?

I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with “negligence.”

Let me know if you think your attorney smiles when s/he hears that word.

In anticipation of the inevitable claims of racism, bias, and discrimination from the Field Supervisor, I asked the landscaper to forthrightly confirm the company’s Employee Handbook actually contains the distinction between “privilege” and “right” in the Use of Company Vehicles section, and of course, that the company has a signed Employee Handbook Acknowledgment from the driver on file.

Per protocol, the two-on-one disciplinary meeting was conducted, replete with predictable excuses, protests, and spurious allegations. The driver was notified of the disciplinary terms: five-day unpaid suspension, revoked vehicle take-home privilege for 30 days, and ongoing GPS tracking of driving practices while on company time. In no uncertain terms, the disciplinary paperwork specified that failure to comply with all company and legal driving regulations would result in possible demotion or termination.

I wonder what the driver would do if his son had a data trail of routinely driving the family car over 95 mph?

I can hear it now: “Dad, you can’t take away my ‘right’ to drive the car!”

Let me know if you think Dad will smile when he hears that word.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.