Should you fire your immigrant employees for not coming to work today?
(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)
A client of mine, who runs a small manufacturing business, is confused.
Twenty of his Latino employees told him this week that they would not be coming to work today as part of the nationwide “Day Without Immigrants.” This guy is a good employer and pays his people well. Most of them have worked for him for years. They are all legal, documented immigrants with green cards – some are even citizens.
My client isn’t the only business being affected. Tens of thousands of immigrants (maybe more) are walking off their jobs to protest President Trump’s recent anti-immigration policies. The walkout is designed to emphasize just how important immigrants are to the country.
Many businesses like my clients are bracing for the impact. According to this Washington Post list, various restaurants, like Sweetgreen and those owned by celebrity chef José Andrés will either close or scale back operations for the day. Schools may be affected. Even the owners of a D.C. fitness chain admit they will be affected, saying in in email that “Immigrant workers make up an indispensable part of our VIDA community and the backbone of many of our daily operations,” and that “We support our employees participation in the nationwide Day Without Immigrants movement tomorrow and as a result we have modified our operations wherever necessary.”
Which brings me to my client’s confusion. He doesn’t understand what this is all about. “The immigrants that work at my company are good people,” he told me just yesterday. “They went through the system. They played by the rules. They abided by the law. They got their documentation and spent a lot of time and money to get it. Why are they protesting?”
It’s a pretty reasonable question.
I get that restaurants and other service industries are highly reliant on immigrants to do those low-skilled jobs that many Americans don’t want to do. But is José Andrés employing undocumented workers? I certainly hope not. Do the immigrant employees who work at my client support those in this country who are undocumented, here illegally and have committed crimes? Because those are the people that President Trump said he is going after. Those are the people that are not only draining the government and health resources of our country but in many cases taking away jobs from all those immigrants who are legally here and worked so hard to attain that status.
Does the president plan to deport immigrants – like my client’s employees – who are legally here? I’ve never heard him say that. Neither has my client. That’s why he’s confused.
So what do you do if you’re a business owner, a merchant, a restauranteur and your immigrant employees take today off to protest? This issue isn’t going away. And oh, just wait until next month (March 8 to be exact) when the planned “A Day Without A Woman” happens and then we have thousands and thousands of women who, like these immigrants, will also punish their employers by taking a day off in solidarity to protest how much they dislike Trump…sorry…I mean “…in the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation,” according to the organizers.
So here’s what you do: you let those protesting employees take the day off. You don’t argue and you don’t complain. You even empathize. Because these are the times we live in. Half of the country viciously disapproves of the president and will look for any excuse to create a protest against him. This will be reality over the next four years.
But, just a word of warning to the workers of America. When businesses invest in technology, subcontract and outsource in order to reduce or even eliminate the costs and headaches that employees create for them, please don’t also complain. You’re going to do what you’re going to do for your best interests. And employers in this country are ultimately going to do what they’re going to do too.