I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately, one we’ve all seemed to accept as normal. When did it become OK for employers to control an employee’s morality? Several instances of this have come up recently. A Houston Chronicle society reporter by the name of Sarah Tressler was fired from her job when it was discovered she did the occasional exotic dance in her off hours. Derek Fenton was fired from his job at the New Jersey Transit Authority last year after he attended a protest (on his own time) where he burned a Koran (which is disgusting and stupid, but legal last I checked). Last month a new law in Arizona went into effect that not only allows employers, under the cover of “religious freedom”, to refuse to cover contraception in their employee health coverage (in violation of Federal law, naturally), but it also seems to give employers the right to fire employees who use birth control to, wait for it, PREVENT CONTRACEPTION! (I know, it is shocking that people might actually use medication for it’s intended purpose.) Arizona isn’t alone. If recent trends in state legislatures are any indication, there will soon be a plethora of new legislation all around the country that mirrors Arizona’s, giving employers the right to dictate their employees moral choices.
But it’s not just religious and moral positions that employers have used against their employees. There is also the near universal push to piss test employees. Yes, I know, some jobs require sober people. I get it. But piss tests don’t test an employee’s current state of intoxication, the only way to do that is with a blood test. But that’s too expensive, so to make insurance companies happy employers pass around the little plastic cups and use your deposits to peer into your recent history, sorting out chemicals markers that have no relation to the condition the employee is in at the time they are working. No, they only check out what you did a couple of nights ago at that party you went to, on your off-time, where probably no one knew or cared who you worked for and what you did. It’s a lie to say piss testing is about safety, it’s all about snooping on you and your leisure time. It’s about knowing what kind of person is working for you, and determining if they fall in line with your own sense of morality.
I guess this all came to a head with me when it was reported in my super secret Facebook group of atheists that one member was interviewed for a job recently and was asked “Do you go to church?”. Our reporter responded “No” and was immediately asked “Well, WHY don’t you attend church?”. This is a POTENTIAL EMPLOYER nosing around in this person’s private religious decisions, obviously trying to weed out those who don’t ascribe to his personal religious beliefs and it’s code of morality. As an “at will” employment state, Oklahoma’s employers enjoy the luxury to fire (or not hire) anyone for any reason, and as a matter of fact they don’t even have to give you a reason. Without a reason, an aggrieved person can not easily file a complaint with the EEOC, not that they seem to give much of a damn about employment discrimination against non-believers anyway. It’s maddening.
I’m an employer. I have people in my employ at my cafe. Believe me when I say they regularly, and with great gusto, violate my moral code. They brag about them, all those little and big things they do that crawl all over me, but it has never occurred to me I should at any time use those actions against them in their employment. It’s wrong. People have the right to make a living, and to deny someone that right because their actions violate your personal morality is reprehensible. It punishes people who hold a minority viewpoint on morality generally, and religious morality specifically, and you just shouldn’t do that. Are we now expected to revise and amend our beliefs and morality at the whims of the person signing our paycheck? What if they wish to prohibit me from donating to a particular political campaign with the money “they gave me” for working, or ban any alcohol purchases because they violate his beliefs? Shall employers be allowed to choose our spouses, charitable donations or religious beliefs now? Just how far will this trend go before someone steps up and says ENOUGH!?!
I do hope we don’t need another round of legislation and bureaucracy to combat these abhorrent actions. People should just treat one another with respect without the hand of the government forcing them. However, it may come to that, because I don’t see this situation getting better. People have become entrenched, vigorously defending their “religious freedoms”, never once seeming to concern themselves with how their actions violate another’s freedoms. My private life, outside of the workplace, is not my employer’s business. Unless they can show why my attendance at a specific church, moonlighting in my underwear, ingesting drugs (on my own time, natch) or when and how to procreate is in any way essential information for them to evaluate my ability to do my job, they can shove their righteous noses up their own butts. It’s where they belong.