Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Relations between airlines and their passengers have taken a dip over the last few years.

Ever since, I fancy, airlines decided that baggage fees were a splendid idea.

Once they realized how much they could make out of those, the airlines started trying to charge for as much as they could.

You know, for things that used to be free.

Now, though, some American Airlines employees are accusing the airline of nickel-and-diming them, too.

They say that the airline is using time-tracking technology that has pre-programmed time periods for a shift, for so-called "grace periods" and for a 30-minute break in a full day's shift.

The employees say that the system deliberately rounds down the number of hours worked and doesn't acknowledge the times when employees are asked to come in early, work late or even perform tasks during their lunch break.

As Law.com reported, baggage handlers and maintenance technicians at Newark airport in New Jersey have joined in a class action suit that accuses the airline of deliberately underpaying them.

I contacted American to ask for its thoughts.

"American pays its team members for all the work they perform. That's the case in New Jersey and throughout our system," an airline spokesman told me.

It's true that the airline has given generous raises to many of its staff.

However, the more lowly paid -- who work for subsidiary American Eagle -- have complained of painfully low wages, as little as $10 an hour. 

It seems, though, that there are difficult nuances and wrinkles in the New Jersey case.

American, Law.com reports, claims that some of its workers who came in early socialized or watched TV, rather than actually work.

As if American's executives would never, ever walk into their office and chat about their weekends at their second homes.

At the heart of all this, though, is the temptress that is technology.

More and more companies are becoming enamored of time-tracking systems because they're relatively easy to implement and require far less labor to maintain.

However, as the Wall Street Journal reports, employees at grocer Kroger and luxury group Montage Hotels and Resorts have also resorted to lawsuits that claim the employees are short-changed because the technology simply doesn't tell the whole truth.

It so rarely does.

Technology's greatest twin attractions are convenience and money-saving. 

Just as humans take advantage of those while shopping, so corporations are increasingly taking advantage while paying. 

Some fear that it's some of the lesser-paid employees who suffer most.

Once the technology is in place, corporations believe that their costs are more predictable.

This might be precisely because the technology doesn't take account of the unpredictable, human nature of work.

After all, technology works more efficiently when it reduces human beings to cogs in a system.

Incredibly, it seems that even hospital employers are using such technology.

There is, of course, a certain irony in the fact that tech companies offer some of the most human-centric conditions and benefits to their own employees, while at the same time creating systems that dehumanize others.

It's odd how rarely this seems to cross their minds.

Don't think, though, that airlines aren't think of using technology much more deeply on their customers, too.

Why, one fine idea being considered, is to set ticket prices not according to where you're sitting, but according to who you are and how much the airline thinks you're prepared to pay.

Published on: May 20, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.