Employers’ Freedom vs. Employees’ Freedom

Hemant Mehta has gotten to the heart of the issue in one debate about the Affordable Care Act and the question of whether employers can be required by law to provide health insurance that covers things an employers disapproves of.

It is the same question as whether an employer can be required by law to pay a salary in money that can be used to purchase things the employer disapproves of. The answer, of course, is yes. The alternative – allowing employers to decide what employees can and cannot spend their money on – is a serious blow at the freedoms that most Americans hold dear. Any decision that allows employers to decide for employees what they can use their salaries or benefits for would have enormous implications

It comes down to the question of the rights and freedoms of employees. If they aren’t protected, then heaven help us.

This is an important issue, particularly as those who want to allow employers to curtail employees’ rights are saying that it is their own religious freedom that is in jeopardy!

  • Anton

    Well said. I’m a Christian, but we’d be opening up a huge can of worms if we allow employers to start picking and choosing what their employees can do with pay and benefits.

    What if an anti-vaccination guy decided that his employees shouldn’t have access to health insurance that covers flu shots? What if a Christian Scientist decided that his employees shouldn’t have coverage that pays for surgery?

    This isn’t about faith at all. It’s about privacy.

  • Gary

    “whether an employer can be required by law to pay a salary in money that can be used to purchase things the employer disapproves of”…ah, for the good old days. Bring back the company store. Employers pay employees in company script, so employees can only purchase company items. Both more profit, and more control over those over-sexed employees. (Note to Replulicans, this is just a joke. No legislation for company script and company stores, please).

  • Just Sayin’

    The relevant freedom here is freedom of conscience.

  • markmatson

    James, this issue really does get to me. I remember well the issues of housing discrimination in my lifetime — both against African Americans (and/or mixed race couples — heaven forbid!), or gays. Often the objections by landlords was one of “conscience” (I just don’t believe in that). But we moved past that, and agreed that a civil society does demand justice. What is offered in the public sphere must be without prejudice.

    This issue of employers’ objections to birth control, or abortion coverage, or “you name it” is in the same vein. When companies engage in public commerce, certain rules of fairness — for all — must take place.

    And I have been trying to imagine were we might find biblical support for some idea that because I am richer/employer/more powerful I get to impose my religious ideas on others. It doesn’t matter if the issue is right or wrong, it is the imposition of my will on someone else that is now a power issue, and seems so contrary to humility that is a key virtue.

    [these offended employers could always try to "reason" with their employees instead of mandate. what a thought]
    mark

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    The alternative – allowing employers to decide what employees can and
    cannot spend their money on – is a serious blow at the freedoms that
    most Americans hold dear.

    -No, it isn’t. Am I the only person here who thinks that?

    • TrevorN

      Your employer thinks you shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.

    • beau_quilter

      Really? You don’t mind having your employer dictate the way you spend your salary?

      • Jr

        That was not the question now, was it? I would like my employer to pay me the same salary as the CEO of Microsoft. That is no reason for making it the law that they have to.

        • beau_quilter

          Yes, Jr, it is the question. Your comment, on the other hand, is completely irrelevant. Nobody is suggesting that an employer should be forced to pay their employees the same salary as a CEO.

          • Jr

            No, it still is not the question. That I might want someone to do “A” does not mean my freedom is restricted by people not being forced to do “A”.

            • beau_quilter

              Well, that’s certainly not the question!

    • arcseconds

      Assuming your employer cannot currently dictate how you spend your money, then allowing them to do so is surely curtailing your freedom.

      Are you sure you haven’t just stepped out of 1984? ‘Freedom is Slavery’ ?

    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

      Am I the only person here who thinks that?

      It seems so :)

      Can you explain more about your thinking? I’m intrigued now.

      • arcseconds

        He hasn’t deigned to respond, it seems, but for what it’s worth from his previous remarks it seems that he’s a libertarian who thinks freedom is just freedom to enter into any contract whatsoever. Restrictions on what conditions a contract can have are restrictions on freedom. You’re less free if you can’t negotiate away your right to spend your money as you see fit.

        He did concede a few months’ back on Slactivist that threat of starvation might actually be just as coercive as a gun to your head, but only after quite a struggle.

        He also typically doesn’t engage much, and seems to engage less now than formerly, as you can see.

        • Jr

          “He did concede a few months’ back on Slactivist that threat of starvation might actually be just as coercive as a gun to your head”

          Well, if someone is threatening to make you starve that is obviously coercion, and any contract you make with them is invalid. On the other hand if you are starving because you are poor and you make a contract to avoid starvation that is no reason to make the contract invalid.

          • Ignorantia Nescia

            May I then ask whether you find ANE slavery laws such as in the Hebrew Bible about slaves of the same nationality morally acceptable?

          • arcseconds

            Why is the first one invalid? In both cases I’ve got the option of starving or accepting whatever exploitative options the employer wants (having my household budget cleared by HR, oral sex every second Friday).

            I can make a free choice either to starve or to become a slave! Freedom is awesome!

            Also, what if my prospective employer is busy scuttling social structures that keep me from starving? Is it OK so long as they’re not singling me out individually?

            • Jr

              If contracts obtained through threats were valid this would encourage people to make threats and reward them for doing so, which is immoral and bad.

              On the other hand, if contracts with starving people are invalid we are punishing people for making it possible for people to escape starvation.

              In fact, I am sure that you agree with what I am saying. If I kidnap you and tell you won’t get any food unless you sign a contract, this contract will be invalid regardless of how beneficial we might think it is for you. On the other hand, if I come across you starving on the street and offer to your watch for a fair price, you can not go back on the deal later because you were starving. I am sure you agree with that distinction.

  • Jr

    I am in general not in favor of protecting religious freedom in law but Congress has chosen to enact the RFRA and the courts have to interpret it. They will have to weigh the government’s interest, including employee protection, against the employers.

    For me the employer’s case is strengthened by the fact that it hardly seems rational to have contraception covered by an insurance anyway. Why not have the insurance pay for food next? The requirement would probably not have been enacted if people realized that the cost will be coming out of their salary.

    And I also think the contracts where the employee agrees to restrictions on how the salary can be spent, should be valid. It is essentially just the same as a lower wage and since I think minimum wage laws are a bad idea, I support allowing such contracts as well.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “it hardly seems rational to have contraception covered by an insurance anyway.”

      There is a clear vested public interest in minimizing unplanned pregnancies. Your comparison to “food” makes zero logical sense.

    • beau_quilter

      If you don’t think contraception should be covered by insurance, then presumably you wouldn’t want pregnancy and pediatric care to be covered by insurance either. Children are far more expensive than contraception.

      • Jr

        No, I do not think it makes sense for normal pregnancy related care to be covered by insurance. In general, it makes little sense for something called “insurance” to pay for choices people voluntarily make.

        • beau_quilter

          Interesting that you think that. Same for education? Only available for those who can pay for it?


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