Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The right to fire people

One of the bees in my bonnet is the fact that there are so many hurdles in the way of employers firing people incompetent or otherwise useless employees. I grew up in the public school system and, while I was blessed with some good teachers, I also had many rotten teachers who held their jobs thanks to union policies that made it impossible for the administration to fire patently useless, bad employees. I also spent time working in (and being treated by) the healthcare industry, and know that, while most nurses are caring, diligent, reliable people, there are nurses out there who are lazy and/or vicious -- and they can't be fired. John Stossel now writes about a government effort in Michigan to make it more difficult for ordinary, private employers to fire people. This is a step beyond preventing firings for the wrong reasons (race or sex discrimination, retaliatory firings when employees report illegal actions, etc.). This is an effort to prevent private employers from, simply, employing the types of people they'd like to have at their workplace. Once you hire someone, if the proposed new law goes into effect, you're kind of stuck with them. Stossel puts his finger on the nub of the issue:

I think whether you smoke, get fat or go skydiving should be your choice. I say "Give Me a Break" to busybody politicians in New York and California who've banned smoking in every bar and restaurant. But there's a big difference between government banning things . . . and Howard Weyers [a Michigan employer who wants all his employees to stop smoking] doing it. We have only one government. When government bans something, it bans it for everybody in its jurisdiction. That's why the Bill of Rights limits government power. But Weyco is just one company. Its employees have other choices. There are other jobs available in Michigan. Cara Stiffler [who couldn't or wouldn't stop smoking] has already found a "better" job but still told me it should have been illegal for Weyers to fire her. "I want my children to see that I stood up for my rights as an American. That's what . . . the men are over fighting in Iraq for, is my freedom." Give Me a Break. Freedom includes the right to quit your job, but freedom also includes the right not to employ someone you don't want to employ. No one forced Stiffler and Epolito to work for Weyco. But now, they want to force Howard Weyers to employ smokers. He built the company. He owns the company. What about his freedom? I asked Epolito if she "owned her job." No, she said, but "there's a relationship there." There was a relationship, that's true. To put it simply, the relationship was that Weyers thought employing Epolito was a good thing and Epolito thought working for Weyco was a good thing. Weyers doesn't own Epolito; she's entitled to pursue her happiness, not his, and if that means smoking, that's her right. But Epolito doesn't own Weyers; he's entitled to live by his values, not hers, and if that means not employing smokers, that's his right. Government smoking bans take away our freedom. But all Weyers did was exercise his.