You Know, I Could Really Use a Day Off

And if I worked in Virginia, as of yesterday, I could now demand it (well, since I’m management, not really).

Whoops! Looks like Virginia — in an attempt to wipe out some of the notorious “blue laws” still on the books — inadvertently reinstated one of them. Namely, that all nonmanagerial Virginia workers have the absolute right to demand either Saturday or Sunday (or another day of their choosing) off as a “day of rest” for religious reasons. The mistake arose from the ostensibly simple wording of the bill, which while eliminating certain laws, also eliminated a series of exceptions to certain sections of the Virginia code (40.1-28.1, 40.1-28.2, 40.1-28.3 and 40.1-28.4) that the repealed laws had made. (Alas, because the Virginia code pages have now removed the repealed sections, I can’t easily check on the specifics of the exemptions, though I was able to find a PDF advisory summary.)

Business leaders in Virginia are in a panic, fearing that people will start demanding to be able to take a day off (most likely Sunday, given the largely Christian population), and legislators are scrambling to figure out the quickest way to solve the problem. But short of calling a special legislative session, there’s probably not a whole lot they can do about it right away.

The wording of 40.1-28.3 might be open to Constitutional challenge, as it explicitly mentions the observance of a particular religion — not to mention placing a much higher burden on the employee to prove that he or she observes Saturday as a “Sabbath,” as compared with the selection of Sunday as the day of choice (as delineated in 40.1-28.2). But even so, these laws have been on the books for a while now without anyone raising much of a fuss. All that’s changed now is that they apply to a much wider range of employees.

In theory, of course, I wouldn’t have a problem with the law — after all, what ethical argument can be made for working people seven days a week? But where it becomes an issue is the likelihood that — as people become more aware of the law — a vast majority of people will (as they should, all other things being equal) exercise their rights under the law. Which means — just running through the exemptions that were removed:

No more buses or taxis on Sunday (transportation systems are no longer exempt). No public utilities work or maintenance (there is an “emergency” exception, but it’s never been specifically defined). No publishing or book sales. No open gas stations. No movies, radio, or television. No medical services. No athletic events or recreational activities. No open nurseries or floral shops. No pharmacies or “baby supplies.” No “food warehouses” (I wonder if Wal-Mart counts). No restaurants. No janitorial services. No hotels or funeral parlors (why these two are grouped together I have no idea). No mining. No tobacco sales (I can hear the smokers panicking at that one). No drugstores (differentiated from pharmacies). No specialty stores (novelty shops, camera supplies, pet stores, etc.). No real estate. No automatic services (ATMs, perhaps?). No sales on pulic property. No commercial telephone operators (though these have largely been replaced by impossible-to-navigate automated systems now anyway). And — oddly enough — no nonprofit charity work.

Now remember, none of these are guaranteed to disappear. But any employee who chooses to take Sunday off can do so without penalty. In other words, there’s nothing to prevent all employees from demanding that day off. Nor can businesses hire people based on their willingness to work Sundays — as that could be construed as discrimination.

In reality, of course, a lot of these positions are filled by hourly as opposed to salaried workers — which means they’re perfectly free to exercise their right, but they won’t get paid. So for the most part, I don’t foresee a precipitous loss of workers.

But still, it just goes to show you that our legislators just might want to read what they’re voting for before they actually do so. Sure, not as horrifically appalling as, say, voting for the Patriot Act, but not exactly a shining moment.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home