Business Nightmare

California Canary in a Progressive coal mine

“Fred, I can’t thank you enough for helping me deal with all the new rules and regulations. I’ve never tried to run a business here before!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah, I wish you a lot of luck,” Fred laconically replied. “There’s a few new laws to watch out for – just went into effect New Year’s Day.”

“Oh Fred”, I chortled, “It’s going to be so much fun to run my own business and to be able to do it in such a beautiful place like this! Everyone’s been so nice since I got here. It’s like they want to know everything about me!”

“I think that’s your 1 p.m. interview for the accountant position pacing up and down in the waiting room,” Fred murmured darkly as he motioned towards the open reception door.

What I saw was concerning. “Fred, can you shut that door? I need to talk to you aside. I’m confused Fred. How should I refer to that applicant? As ‘Madam’ or ‘Sir?’”

“I wouldn’t use either of those antiquated gender specific pronouns. It could be interpreted as hate speech. Yes, it’s sporting cherry red lipstick and a skin tight pink chiffon dress, but judging by the 5 o’clock shadow, the tuffs of hair on the neck and back and the pronounced Neanderthal gait, your 1 o’clock is undoubtedly a member of our local Wazeri Immigrant cross-dresser transgender community. Whatever you say during the interview, reference only politically correct gender neutral pronouns. And above all else, absolutely no questions about the applicants criminal history or prior convictions.”

“I can’t ask if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime? I replied.

“Absolutely not”, shot back Fred. “Assembly Bill 1008 was just signed into law by the Governor. It strictly prohibits you taking into account prior criminal history before making an offer of employment.”

“Gosh – how silly of me. I guess if someone has prior convictions for embezzlement, receiving stolen property or grand theft that shouldn’t be a factor in deciding whether they should be entrusted with the company payroll. Crazy me - whatever was I thinking?”

Fred’s head shot around as he took a suspicious glance out the office window. “See that black nondescript sedan out there?” “Yeah – what of it?” I asked innocently. “The Feds,” he spat back. “It’s an undercover ICE Agent. “Whatever you do, if he comes in here poking his head around asking for help with immigration enforcement tell him to pound sand and try and get a warrant from one of our immigration enforcement minded Judges.”

“Oh Fred, that seems so impolite. I have no problem helping our hard working federal servants with immigration enforcement.” “You damn well better have a problem with it”, shot back Fred. “Assembly Bill 450 just passed into law!”

“Assembly Bill 450?”

“It forbids your voluntary consent with or assistance to an immigration agent’s entry into your business or access to any of your records for enforcement purposes unless he has a warrant. That’s not all. If the Feds do a check and find out one of your employees has fraudulent residency documents, you have to personally notify your employee that the Feds are on to them. If you fail to tell your employee what’s up – you can be fined for up to five grand for the first offense. Ten thousand thereafter!”

“Oh. You don’t think any of our future Wazeri immigrant employees might have fake documentation do you?” I asked. “Oh no!” replied Fred sarcastically. “And they also all have perfectly clean criminal histories!” he laughed.

“Alright well,” I stammered nervously, “I might as well get this interview over with. You can show it in.”

“I wouldn’t refer to it as ‘it’ if you know what’s good for you.”

“Another bill just passed into law?” I asked sheepishly.

“Senate Bill 396.” Fred breathed it out like someone had punched him hard in the gut.

“Look I have to be honest with you. Most of these job applicants who come in here, especially the ones in the tight chiffon dresses with the five o’clock shadow and the plunging neck-line, they’re not coming to look for a job. They’re trying to catch you doin’ or saying something stupid so they can sue your ass off. Just stay away from the antiquated gender specific pronouns. If you say something insensitive or blurt out the wrong thing, not only are you going to get sued but you and the whole management team are gonna be stuck in sensitivity training hell! SB 396 not only requires mandatory anti-harassment training but mandates enforced education based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.”

I had this queasy ach in my stomach and my head started to spin. Fred could see I wasn’t feeling well. “Look – I’ll send whatever it is in. Just remain focused. Don’t ask about prior criminal history, don’t make any remarks about the clothing and only use polite gender neutral pronouns – stay away from ‘it’, ‘creature’ or ‘thing.’ Oh, and don’t ask it about prior salary history!”

“I can’t ask about salary history?”

“AB 46. It’s to rectify misogynistic patriarchal abuse of women.” “But it’s not a woman”, I protested. “Doesn’t matter don’t ask it about it!” Fred snarled back.

I was confused now. The Sweat was gathering on my forehead. “Well – that doesn’t leave a lot to talk about during the interview. I guess I could make small talk. We could talk about the weather!” I suggested, a hopeful tone raising in my voice.

“I’d avoid any discussion of the weather. If it gets a sense that you’re not a true believer in the settled science of anthropogenic climate change, they’re gonna torch this place for sure!”

“Ok – I won’t mention the weather,” I replied. “I guess I just shouldn’t say anything – I’ll just smile and offer it a job.”

“Don’t smile”, reprimanded Fred. “The smile could be taken as a suggestive and offensive leer – a serious micro aggression which is a sure precursor to a sexual harassment claim.”

Fred continued. “What are you going to do if it asks to use the bathroom?”

“I don’t know – I’ll show it where the restrooms are.”

“I wouldn’t do that either if I were you”, Fred responded sharply. “The transgender logo is still at the printers. Right now we’ve still got the antiquated signage up. One door reads ‘Men’s’ the other ‘Women’s.’ When it sees that, it’s a sure case of transphobia and gender stereotyping!”

“Take the signs off the doors!” I blurted out.

“They’re painted on! I’ll see if I can get some duct tape up there or a can of spray paint to cover it over.”

As Fred turned to go about his mission, I offered, “It’s going to be a short interview. If I have to delay it, I’ll show it the employee break room.”

”I wouldn’t do that!” Barked Fred. “We’re out of compliance with SB 396 and AB 260. I’m sorry, the new law just took effect. We don’t have our employee notices regarding transgender rights and human trafficking assistance hotlines posted. I guess the geniuses who wrote these laws figured since they’re making immigration enforcement illegal, the least they could do for the poor beleaguered Wazeri immigrant transgender sex slave community is make the employer provide a hot line number where they can call for human trafficking assistance! I think we also need to get it translated into Wazeri but don’t worry, I’m working on that. I just haven’t been able to find a Wazeri translator that has proper State multi-jurisdictional licensure and the certification for all required transgender sensitivity training!”

Suddenly Fred was jabbing me in the ribs – his voice over modulating into a high feminine shriek.

“Dear! Dear!! Wake up! Wake up!! You’re having a bad dream!!”

”Oh Honey – Oooh that was terrible! Thank God it was just a horrible nightmare!! Can you imagine such a thing? I dreamt that the Governor had signed into law all these absurd and insane requirements like that you can’t ask a job applicant about their criminal history and that it’s illegal to openly cooperate with immigration authorities; if you don’t tip off your employees you can be fined thousands of dollars! It was so incredibly absurd – you have to undergo sensitivity training for gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation! And the signs on the bathrooms – they can’t read ‘Men’s’ and ‘Women’s.’ Oh Toto – I’m so glad I’m back on planet earth – but darling, I’m so excited that we moved from Kansas and got out of all that awful weather. It’s so beautiful here and it’s going to be so much fun to run a business in this gorgeous place with such happy nonjudgmental people! Thank God we did the right thing by moving to California!”

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