Some employers worry that requiring vaccination (or obnoxious frequent testing) of all employees will cause a lot of their workers to quit. A few may indeed leave. But my own experience suggests that employers need not panic about this possibility.
Back in 1960, my summer "vacation" from Willamette University was spent as an intern in the Oregon State Public Welfare Commission's personnel office. The personnel office was in the Commission's administrative headquarters in Portland.
Our office was responsible for hiring, evaluating, and compensating all Commission employees, including the caseworkers staffing welfare offices in each Oregon county. The county offices were responsible for working with people needing welfare assistance.
The people at headquarters were upset when Governor (later U.S. Senator) Mark Hatfield announced plans to move the Commission's headquarters to Oregon's capital in Salem, about 60 miles south of Portland.
My supervisor had me conduct a survey to see how many employees would be willing to move to Salem if we were relocated. I designed, sent out and analyzed responses to a questionnaire. I don't remember the exact numbers, but as I recall a substantial majority of these civil servants indicated they would quit rather than move.
We sent the detailed results of my study to Gov. Hatfield, apparently hoping to convince him that moving our offices would be a bad idea. But Hatfield replied that, thankfully, the really important staff would be moving, perhaps putting the others in their place!
And sure enough, in the middle of the following summer, my second as an intern there, the headquarters moved to Salem.
Again, 60 years later, I do not remember the exact numbers, but as I recall most of the staffers who had threatened to quit decided to remain on board after all. It is easier to threaten to quit than to actually quit.
There are major differences between those Oregon civil servants and the people who currently work for organizations that will require vaccination for all employees.
The Welfare Commission people had other employment opportunities in many different organizations in the Portland area. And they had houses, kids in school and often working spouses in Portland, all of which were disincentives to move to Salem.
Employees in 2021 who quit because of a vaccine mandate by their employers, in sharp contrast, will not have many alternative job opportunities, since all other major employers will also be requiring vaccination.
This is where the federal government's requirement that nearly all employers get their workers vaccinated will be particularly important.
Unemployment caused by the pandemic's business shutdowns was highly unpleasant.
However, the federal government quite properly tried to reduce economic hardship by increasing eligibility for unemployment compensation and by adding substantial amounts to the weekly benefits.
But employees who quit because they refuse to get vaccinated probably won't be able to collect unemployment compensation at all. Nor will those who are fired. "Insubordination" — a refusal to carry out an employer's lawful orders, generally makes unemployment compensation unavailable under existing law.
The case for denying unemployment compensation would be even stronger here, when the employer's decisions were based on a federal occupational safety rule with which it is complying.
Laws always reflect conflicting considerations. Highway speed limits respond to conflicting desires: to let people get quickly from one place to another, but to keep them safe from accidents while they are driving.
Everyone's liberty to drive at any speed they choose is restricted to protect everybody from excess risk.
Like all laws, vaccination mandates limit personal liberty, but they do so for the legitimate purposes of protecting public health, avoiding overloaded hospitals, and keeping the economy going.
This is best done at the federal level since contagion does not respect state boundaries.
Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. Read Professor Paul F. deLespinasse's Reports — More Here.
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