You can tell quite a bit about a company by looking at what it goes to court over, in fact, whether it has to go to court at all. While there are nut cases on the fringes of just about all groups of folks, as general rule it is not a good sign when the company battles its stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, the community in which it operates, and stockholders – in court.

‘Right or wrong’ and ‘legal or illegal’ are not two ways of saying the same thing   ‘Right’ is a bit higher standard than ‘legal’. Money grubbers set the bar by basically saying ‘so long as we won’t go to jail if we get caught its fair game’. They also see stakeholders as necessary evils and spend a lot of time living on the edge of ‘legal versus illegal’ with them trying to extract as much juice from them without paying for it. As a result, they are often in court with those stakeholders.

Good companies expect more of themselves than that, and they see stakeholders as critical assets that make profits possible. In Creating a Kaizen Culture Jon Miller at al wrote, “We say that an organization has a kaizen culture when it values and develops people; … holds strong beliefs, assumptions, and values about what is right and good …

So what does that tell us about Apple, Amazon, JC Penney, CVS and TJ Maxx? The honchos there are dancing a bit of jig because the Supreme Court upheld their right to skin their warehouse employees out of 20 minutes a day without having to pay for it. Legal? Yes. Right and good? Not even close.

The issue is this: If you work in one of their distribution centers it seems that, once your shift is over, you have to clock out, but can’t leave until you go through a security check. Apparently the check is more akin to a body cavity search than it is walking through a scanner because it takes 20-25 minutes to get everyone checked out.

Common sense, common courtesy, basic right and wrong dictate that if you require people to do something at work you pay them for the time it takes to do it. Period. That decision would be a no-brainer at any company that gives the least consideration to “what is right and good”.

The employees said that since it is mandatory and that they are basically held prisoner on the employer’s premises until they pass the security check they should get paid for the time.   They accountants, MBA’s and assorted elite of the management pyramid who define management as the ability to skim every nickel from stakeholders they can in order to enhance shareholder value argue that security checks are not “integral and indispensable” to warehouse workers “core duties” they shouldn’t have to pay. Citing a law from a similar situation in 1944, the Supreme Court agreed with the grubbers.

Of course the whole thing – and the difference between “kaizen culture” companies and outfits like Apple and Amazon – is pretty well set from the outset. Good companies hire good people and pay them well, worrying a lot about those folks character when they hire them in order to assure they have the kind of people to fit into and enhance their culture. Amazon and their ilk set the hiring criteria at little above having a pulse and a willingness to put up with managerial crap for rock bottom wages. They hire thieves so it comes as no big surprise that warehouse theft is a problem. It is ‘necessary’ ergo, to set policies to keep said thieves from robbing them. And the adversarial game is on.

As I said at the outset, here’s a good cultural indicator: How many times have you been in court with your employees? Your customers? Your suppliers? The local government? If the answer is more than zero you probably have some work to do on that culture.