The Moral Dilemma of Employees at Non-Essential Businesses

There are some people who are still going to work because they are essential. Doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police officers, grocery store workers, postal workers, the people who keep the Internet running are a few of those people. We salute them for being on the frontlines. Everyone of them deserves a pay raise for being at risk of catching coronavirus. Here’s hoping they have adequate medical coverage. By staying at home and not going any place you don’t have to go, you’re honoring the sacrifice and the risk these workers are taking to keep your community functioning and in touch with the rest of the world.

Freelancers are probably still “going” to work because, if they’re lucky, their work is at home. Other freelancers may be striking out into the world to cover their bills. They have no financial choice, especially if they haven’t been able to get over the bill hill that comes with working as a freelancer. Does this excuse them from staying at home? No. Every time someone leaves the house unnecessarily, the pandemic gets spread farther. Freelancers need to be finding ways to stay at home regardless of the kind of work they do. Still, if someone needs a computer repaired or the plumbing fixed, and you consider yourself a freelancer, then you have to make your own call. Are those essential services or is there something that can be delivered instead of making the necessary fix?

Then there are the rest of the employees who have bills to pay, and their work has reopened in spite of the dangers of doing so. It is not safe for any business that is not essential to be open. It’s not even safe for essential businesses to be open, but they are essential so we live with, and ask those employees to live with, the dangers. When you call in your employees to do work, you are placing in them danger of dying. Worse, you’re placing everyone they come into contact with in danger of dying. You are spreading the virus with your policies requiring people to come in.

A person doesn’t have to be sick to have a communicable form of the virus. Yes, it’s tough on your business to not be open. It’ll be even tougher if your employees get ill and die, and if you have customers, that your policies kill, that’s a hard one to overcome. If someone has coronavirus, they may not have any signs of the disease and pass it on to someone else. It doesn’t make sense to open a business and then close it when someone gets ill – because by then it’s too late.

If you’re an employee in this category, consider quitting. Yes, the bills issue is a tough one to overcome, but one person reported receiving a hospital bill for $20,000 for coronavirus treatment. If no one shows up at work; the shop will have to close anyway. Your company isn’t just risking your life and health but that of your family, nurses, doctors and those on the frontline and your community. If they can’t be responsible citizens, someone is going to have to stand up to them. Harness your inner Rosa Parks and Dr. Semmelweis, call your colleagues, and refuse to go in.

It’s not possible for everyone to give up his or her work. There are variables involved, including identity, purpose, belief, and need. If you can’t, or won’t, challenge your company’s policy, try to come up with a way that you can work from home. Most businesses don’t need their employees on site. They just need to transfer records online and work using video technology.

It’s important to note that the longer people keep going out and coming into contact with other people, the longer this whole thing is going to go and the deadlier it’s going to become. There are already more than 215,000 ill and 4,800 people dead in the U.S. because people can’t stay the f—k home. If you’re a non-essential business, let your people stay home. If you’re a non-essential employee required to come in, it might be time to find a new place to work. Your life, the life of your loved ones, and the lives of those treating this disease aren’t worth whatever it is the company is selling.