SEATTLE In this economy, you don't hear many stories about companies extending or improving benefits to employees.

That might be what some staffers were thinking at Seattle-based Social Strata on Monday when the boss called all the employees together to make a big announcement.

Sandy Wallace recalled an odd silence.

His colleague, Dave Dreezer, said he saw eyes light up, and jaws drop after what company president Rosemary O'Neill began speaking.

We told our employees that we were going to have, from now on, unlimited paid leave, O'Neill said.

That's not a misprint:Unlimited paid leave.

First, you could hear a pin drop, O'Neill said. There was some surprise; they weren't sure we were serious at first.

She said she was inspired to make the change after reading James Collins' book, Built to Last.

We thought we want a company of leaders and a culture of discipline, O'Neill said. When you treat people with respect which is the essence of the policy then they rise to the occasion. I really, truly believe that.

The company specializes in building social networking sites and forum-based communication for other organizations, and its employees can already come in at different hours or, as Dreezer says: It's nice not to punch a clock. You know what your responsibilities are; come in and get 'em done.

O'Neill believes the policy will be self-policing. She is not worried about people abusing it, but says if anyone does, they'll weed themselves out.

That may be the only good news for anyone looking to work for the company, because right now, O'Neill says there are no openings.

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