The concept of a job

The "What, Why and How" of jobs.

This started out as a commentary on the similar situations of Kim Davis and Charee Stanley, who both refused to carry out the requirements of their employment on the basis of religious grounds. I will comment on their situations after I provide the context.

The foundation of our society and economic engine is human labor. This is how we get things done. Concentrated and consistent effort by people to accomplish tasks and produce things. In other words, a job. Just to make it clear, a “career” is not a job. A career is a collection of jobs of the same or similar type.

A job is easily described as a “contractual exchange of time, effort and knowledge to provide a service or produce a product in exchange for other goods and services.” The contract can be written or verbal and the level, type and quality of goods and services exchanged should be agreeable to both parties. If the exchange is not agreeable to both sides, this situation can be described as fraud or extortion, depending on who the welshing party is. In extreme cases, it can even be called slavery.

This might be difficult for some people to understand. At the bedrock of this discussion, we are all self-employed. We are all working for ourselves. While most of us think “self-employed” means you own a business and work for yourself, a “40-hour job” is essentially the same thing. The major difference is you have one customer (your supervisor/company you work for) and your “customer” has agreed to perform certain administrative duties for you, such as collecting your payroll taxes, retirement plans, healthcare plans and so on. If you don’t provide what was contractually agreed on (e.g., “do your job”), the employer/customer terminates your contract.

Excluding the fraud/extortion/slavery, a job is a mutually agreed upon contract. You don’t have to work for only them and the company doesn’t have to employ you. If you don’t like what you are paid, quit and work somewhere else that pays more. If you don’t like/can’t afford the benefits and you need them badly, again, quit and work somewhere else. If there are no jobs where you are, move to where the jobs are. I understand that doing these things even under the best of circumstances is very difficult. I’ve had to do it myself. We grow by doing things we haven’t done before and making mistakes.

Here are two famous examples of people in job disputes with their employers over the requirements of their job.

For those of who don’t know who Kim Davis is, she is the elected county clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky. When the Supreme Court ruled in Obgerfell v. Hodges that all states must issue and recognize other states same-sex marriage certificates, Ms. Davis refused to sign same-sex marriage certificates which is part of her duties as County Clerk.

I am not commenting on her political views, nor her religious views. I am not commenting her personal life or on any of her words or actions outside of this specific act. It is her job as County Clerk to sign and certify all marriage certificates in accordance with all local, state and federal laws as they apply to her job.

In that specific context, excluding her reasons and motivations, she is not performing all of the duties that is required by her position. If the County demands she perform all of her duties (including this specific one) and she refuses, Ms. Davis needs be transferred to a position where that is not part of her duties or be summarily fired. Or, she can quit.

A similar situation is Charee Stanley. This is a lady who starting working as a flight attendant for an airline in 2012. In 2013 she converted to Islam and in 2014 discovered that her faith prohibits her from handling/serving alcohol as well as consuming it. As with Ms. Davis, I am not commenting on anything about Ms. Stanley’s religion or any motivation she may have about this.

Her employer initially made a reasonable accommodation that she work it out with the other flight attendants that they serve the alcohol instead of her. This arrangement worked until another flight attendant complained, whereupon the airline revoked the accommodation.

Ms. Stanley is now faced with the following options: She can try to work with the company to have them reinstate the accommodation, she can request a transfer to another position where she is not required to handle alcohol, or she can quit. The job requirements were clear when she applied for the position and the company can be strict or accommodating in this requirement. I am leaning towards the side of Ms. Stanley, as she is asking for what I think is a reasonable accommodation. If she were a recovering alcoholic, would the airline be so inflexible about this accommodation? I don’t know.

You always have a choice if you take a job, or how long you stay there. How much you are paid for your job… That’s another article.


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