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Industry Insights

Moreno: The Great Resignation

  • State: California

There have been a lot of articles in recent weeks about the “Great Resignation,” implying that employees across California, and the nation, are leaving their jobs in droves for reasons related to the pandemic.

Cynthia Moreno

Cynthia Moreno

First, it was the lockdowns that forced virtually everyone, at some point in time, in the state, country and across the globe to stay home.

According to health experts, it was the only way to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19.

This not only caused massive layoffs across multiple industries, but many workers decided to quit their jobs or refused to show up to work out of fear of contracting the virus.

For many workers, a combination of government stimulus checks and unemployment benefits from the state and federal governments provided a cushion to seek other employment or simply migrate from jobs that were not taking COVID-19 precautions too seriously.

As “remote work” became the norm for many employees, essential workers — like those who pick the fruit and vegetables we consume, stock the shelves at our grocery stores, drop off important medication and packages at people’s doors or care for sick patients at nursing homes and hospitals — it was virtually impossible to “work from home.”

But for most workers, even amid all the sadness and fear caused by COVID-19 and the pandemic in general, they had the opportunity to rethink their careers and their life.

Many left unfulfilling jobs, for example.

For those who are looking to return to their old jobs or are looking for work, employers are paying double. And those who stuck around through the pandemic are experiencing severe burnout or looking to get out, fast.

In general, employers must weigh their employees’ legal rights and understand the valid health concerns they have in the context of the pandemic.

This is more important for essential workers who throughout the pandemic expressed legitimate fears of returning to work for health and safety concerns.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act states that employees can refuse to work if they reasonably believe they are in “imminent danger or have a reasonable belief that there is a threat of death or serious physical harm likely to occur immediately or within a short period.”

Through this pandemic, many employees have had legitimate fears about contracting COVID-19 based on fact, not just out of fear of being infected with COVID-19 at work. Some employers did the right thing during the pandemic by putting in place health and safety precautions to ensure employees had a safe working environment.

Others did not.

Cynthia Moreno is communications director for the California Applicants' Attorneys Association. This opinion is republished, with permission, from the CAAA website.

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