We have officially entered the Age of the Employee. That became clear to me on Wednesday when the CEO of a well-respected home care company advocated for firing clients  who have unreasonable caregiver profile expectations.

“What are you doing as an organization and a client says I don’t want someone who’s young or old or overweight or a certain race or whatever it might be,” Kunu Kaushal, CEO of Senior Solutions Home Care, said during a panel discussion at the Home Care Association of America’s annual conference. He added, “At some point you have to know where to draw the line … Sometimes it’s OK to say you’re not a great customer for us.”

While at another point in time, this could be considered a provocative statement, in October of 2023, Kaushal’s highly esteemed panelists did not object. The robust audience of home care providers at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago did not seem to take offense, either.

Which tells me that the employee not only is more valuable than the client in the eyes of an agency, as Kaushal also pointed out, the employee is king. This makes sense given the workforce shortage and the projections of demand outstripping supply in the years to come.

The marketplace knows this, as well. Think about all the companies dedicated to helping agencies find and keep caregivers. Solving the workforce shortage is an industry in and of itself.

Dave Rendall, author of “The Freak Factor: Discovering Uniqueness by Flaunting Weakness,” reinforced the new zeitgeist during a rousing keynote presentation later in the conference. He highlighted businesses that have flourished by defying norms and taking unconventional approaches, opposing the strategies of their competitors.

One example he provided was Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a movie theatre that holds the movie experience sacred and bans patrons from using cell phones during the presentations. When an unhappy patron who was not pleased with the theatre’s rules delivered an unhappy voicemail, the company chose not to apologize. Instead, they featured the voicemail in their marketing. The clear message? Not all patrons are welcome.

The United States has set itself apart from the world with its philosophy that the customer is always right. But it is somewhat liberating to be living in this era when the employee takes precedence.  Home care businesses have more rein to say no thank you to unsavory customers and perhaps, ultimately, guide them toward more appropriate behavior.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].