Chieh Huang has been called the “real-life dream boss.” He is CEO of Boxed, a company that delivers groceries and household goods in bulk. His employees get workplace perks that are the envy of many who toil unappreciated for other companies.
He’s generous, respectful, and loved. But I think he practices big-time discrimination.
In his latest act of bigheartedness, Huang has offered to pay for his employees’ weddings, up to $20,000 per nuptial. He just covered the first one, and he knows of about four more on the horizon.
In the U.S., more people than ever before are staying single all their lives. A Pew Report noted that when today’s young adults reach the age of 50, about one in four of them will be single people who have always been single. On the other side of things, some people marry over and over again.
I think that giving employees who are marrying a bonus of $20,000 (or any bonus at all) is outright, blatant discrimination against people who are single. Workplaces should be about work. Imagine loyal employees of Boxed, who work for the company for decades, and stay single the whole time. Are they really supposed to smile sweetly while their coworkers – who have no special accomplishments in the workplace – get an extra $20,000 to celebrate themselves and their romantic relationship?
I’ve been single all my life, and that’s by choice. I’m single at heart – single is how I live my best, most meaningful, and most authentic life. It is not painful for me when other people marry because it is not something I want for myself. I think everyone should get to live the life that suits them best, so if that means marriage for some people, and they find someone they want to marry, I’m happy for them. But consider the single people who yearn for a spouse but have never found the right person. Most likely, they are already giving their emotional labor to their marrying colleagues, as they participate in the requisite congratulations and oohs and aahs over the rings and the plans for the festivities. At some level, that has to hurt. On top of that, they are supposed to be happy that their coworkers are getting an extra $20,000 for their party? I don’t think so.
Huang said he was moved to pay for his employees’ weddings when he found one of them in tears on the warehouse floor. The employee, whose job was to pack boxes, had been working double shifts to save for his wedding. But then he had to spend the money on his mother’s medical bills.
I would have no objection to a boss who helped with medical bills. I would feel so enormously grateful not to need help with medical bills that I would not care at all if a fellow employee got extra money for that purpose. But $20,000 to pay for a wedding bash, a gift that says that one person’s spousal relationship is more consequential than any other relationship any other worker might have? No.
Huang also pays for employees’ kids to go to college. That strikes me as a bit more worthy, but still unfair to employees who do not have kids or those whose kids are uninterested in higher education. If generosity is his goal, maybe the CEO should offer every employee a splurge account that is the same amount for everyone, to be used however they wish.
Other policies of Huang’s are both generous and nondiscriminatory. For example:
“Boxed gives… hourly workers the same benefits as salaried ones. They are very good benefits, including health insurance and – notably – unlimited sick time and vacation time.”
That’s the kind of policy I can celebrate.