Actor Gene Wilder died yesterday at the age of 83. While he had many famous roles, many of us remember him as the original Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The genius candy inventor also managed an entire factory of employees. How'd he do at that? Well, here's what would happen to you if you managed like Willy Wonka.

(Caveat: While I recognize that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author, Roald Dahl was British and Wonka's Chocolate factory would be subject to UK laws, this article is written from an American perspective--what if you, in your American company, operated like Willy Wonka. Also, if there is a discrepancy between the book and film, I'm going with the book version.)

Firing Everyone.

When Wonka's employees started selling his secrets to his competitors, he just shut everything down. Fired everyone. Closed the doors. Finished. No warning.

What would happen to you: Closing an entire factory down makes you subject to the WARN act--Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act which means you would need to notify your employees 60 days in advance (provided you have more than 100 employees). If you can't warn them, you have to pay them out 60 days worth of salary. There are exceptions, of course, but better check with your lawyers before firing everyone Wonka Style.

Hiring Foreigners.

Wonka went out and found people who were willing to work for less than minimum wage (cacao beans) and brought them to his factory. They seemed to love it and were happy to be away from Hornswaggers, Snozzwangers, and Wangdoodles who ate them in their native Loompaland. He hired them directly from their home country, so it's safe to say that they didn't have the requisite green card or US citizenship.

What would happen to you: Unless you were able to convince the government that there were not any qualified factory workers and therefore were eligible for special work visas, you'd be out of luck. Most of the factory workers wouldn't be highly skilled professionals and so the HB1 visa would be available to them. (Those that helped invent Wonka TV probably would qualify, though.) They aren't agricultural workers either, so wouldn't qualify for temporary agricultural visas. So, basically, you'd be in trouble for bringing them in illegally.

And let's talk about paying your workers with cacao beans? Yeah, even if you provide housing, you still need to meet minimum wage, with overtime as applicable. You can deduct housing costs, but somehow I doubt this was happening in the chocolate factory.

Big Pipes of Chocolate.

As a chocolate lover, I can get behind the river of chocolate and mixing it by water fall. Delicious!

What would happen to you: First of all, it's doubtful you'd want to spend the money on such a thing, but let's say you did. That boat that goes down the river? I'm thinking you're going to have a hard time getting health inspectors that say that is okay. Let's talk fines.

Experimenting on Employees

Yes, the employees at Wonka's Chocolate Factory seem to be happy enough to try Wonka's experimental candys.

What would happen to you: The FDA would not be quite so happy. Something that causes a massive amount of hair to grow would be regulated as a pharmaceutical and would need to go through years of testing before trying it on a human. You'd need to show tons of research data and make sure all i's were dotted and t's crossed before giving it to an employee for testing. You'd be shut down.


What could be more awesome than squirrels cracking your shells open?

What would happen to you: This is just silly. Squirrels would steal the nuts and run away. It would make a great YouTube video if you could get it to work, though. If you did, though, PETA would be outside your door protesting your abuse of squirrels.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of the greatest children's books of all time. Sorry to spoil it for you with a dose of reality. Just keep in mind the fun parts of Mr. Wonka, and Gene Wilder who played him so well.

Published on: Aug 30, 2016
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