Social Question

benjaminlevi's avatar

Can a environmentally-conscious person working as a cashier refuse to give out plastic bags the way that pharmacists can refuse to give contraceptives/Plan B?

Asked by benjaminlevi (2987points) April 18th, 2010

Both would say “I believe this is unethical, therefore you cannot force me to do it”

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

41 Answers

bunnygrl's avatar

No. You work for your employer, it is their decision not yours. Actually, one of the things in this world that drives me nuts is folk pushing their beliefs, views etc onto others. If you don’t agree with handing out contraceptives get another job, because you surely shouldn’t be allowed to be a pharmisist. No one has the right to force their views onto others.
hugs everyone xx

benjaminlevi's avatar

@bunnygrl So should religious/pro-life people should be forced to sell contraceptives if their employer decides the should?

bunnygrl's avatar

Yes honey. Its part of the job. If they don’t want to do it, get another job where they don’t have to. I know that sounds harsh, but why should non religious people be denied a service that this person has been hired to provide? As I said, comes with the job.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@benjaminlevi Yes, I think they should. They’re perfectly free to find employment elsewhere if they don’t like what they’re asked to do.

cazzie's avatar

@benjaminlevi They should get another job if they don’t want to do the job their employer hires them for.

As for the original question… I think making a suggestion with a smile would have a bigger impact. They have ‘non-plastic’ options at our stores here where, for a couple of extra kroner, you can buy a reusable fabric bag. If someone is THAT bothered by it, they could ask the shoppers if they were interested in shopping the reusable today, rather than plastic, but they can’t refuse… and if they were my employees, they had better remember that the customer is right 99% of the time and if they need to be corrected, you do it politely and with a smile.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

You probably could for a day before your boss fired you or ay least had a talk with you.
I like the idea myself but the cashier has very little power.

If an employee doesn’t like how the company operates regarding policy, the employee needs to move on to another job that is a better ethical fit.

I also think that pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraceptives due to personal beliefs should be removed from their positions.

People seem to be under the impression that pharmacists are held to a higher standard because they deal with medicine. Truthfully, they’re generally on par with your average cosmetics salesperson.

bunnygrl's avatar

Great answers everyone. I should have added that I am a cashier and would never push my views on anyone like that. Our store sells re usable bags too and they’re pretty popular with customers.
hugs all xx

dpworkin's avatar

I think this question is deeper than it looks upon first glance. Each scenario involves serious moral issues. I believe they should be answered differently, and I’m sure you can imagine which option I favor for each scenario, but it’s a Great Question, and I eagerly await some thoughtful glosses on it.

bunnygrl's avatar

@dpworkin I genuinely don’t think there are different answers. Yes, morals are involved but no one has the right to determine the choices which others make for themselves because of beliefs they personally hold.If your views go against what is required of you in your profession, you can’t continue to follow that career path. Not if it means you are denying others that same choice. In others words, folk should keep their opinions to themselves and butt out of others business honey. I apologise if I offend, I don’t mean to, but I strongly believe in this.
@benjaminlevi this is a wonderful question <hugs>
hugs xx

dpworkin's avatar

I’m glad you have a strong opinion. That’s part of what interests me about this question.

cazzie's avatar

Wow… imagine an opinionated waitress…. ‘No sir… You DON’T want the pie.. you’ve had enough to eat and you should shed a few pounds.’ hahaha

bunnygrl's avatar

@cazzie LOL exactly!
hugs xx

whitenoise's avatar

Interesting idea…. I guess it comes close to civil servants having the right (or not) to refuse to perform a wedding ceremony for a gay couple. In the Netherlands, this is an issue.

It is not so simple as stated above… new situations arise all the time and you may be confronted with conflicts of conscience while in a job that you held for over twenty years.

I say…. people should talk with their employer and employers should put effort into addressing their employees genuine concerns. That doesn’t mean the emloyee should always have the right to refuse. It just means that employers should make an effort to look for a mutually satisfying solution.

kevbo's avatar

If that’s the limit of their imagination regarding environmental activism, perhaps they should deepen their awareness to realize how much further they have to go to take that logic to it’s conclusion. What about anything in plastic bottles? Excessive packaging? Or, anything that has traveled hundreds or thousands of miles before being put on the shelf?

janbb's avatar

It’s an interesting question since I find myself much more sympathetic to the cashier than the pharmacist ! Highlights
my prejudice. Traveling so I can’t post at length but I will follow this.

whitenoise's avatar

@kevbo Have you ever been to India… I wish they would have more conscious cashiers there. Many cities have drains that are fully blocked by plastic bags and the resulting still water creates poodles for malairia mosquitos to breed in. Plastic bags kill tens of thousands of people there, continuously.

I meant to say that if the cashier lives in India, (s)he has my sympathies on hir stance.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

When you clock in, you’re on company time and you are a representative of that company and by proxy, the company’s values.

In short, you don’t get to unload your personal opinions on your company’s customers.
That presents a conflict of interests.

So while it’s not environmentally sound to hand out plastic bags to your customers, that’s what they’re paying you to do. If that doesn’t jive with an employee’s personal views and it keeps them from doing what they’re paid to, they can be dismissed.

An employee could always bring it up with the boss but that has a low success rate.
Bosses are most influenced by their superiors not their subordinates.

cazzie's avatar

@whitenoise Have you seen these?

I also take plastic bags and melt them together and make reusable things from them.

kevbo's avatar

@whitenoise, I haven’t and wasn’t aware of that problem. In that case, I think the scenario above is a start a la a Rosa Parks), but ultimately the effort to manage that problem will require a more organized effort.

whitenoise's avatar

@kevbo You’re right there….

@cazzie Great… if only those bags in India were the ones recycled…. I’d be tempted to buy one :-)

nebule's avatar

pharmacists can refuse to give out contraceptives???!!! wtf?...I didn’t know that!! Is that in the UK?

cazzie's avatar

@whitenoise we all do what we can.
This is the group making the bags you can by that ARE made from recycled bags from India.

thriftymaid's avatar

No. Your employer gets to decide how to run his business. You are an employee.

Buttonstc's avatar


GA for that great link. How do you melt the plastic bags without it sticking to whatever you are using to melt it? I’d be interested in knowing more about that.

To answer the original question. As a cashier, you’re pretty low on the totem pole so that’s not too realistic unless you really really enjoy job hunting.

But, if you start your own business, you can institute whichever policies you please.

dpworkin's avatar

I wonder if there might not come a point when it is profoundly immoral to hand out plastic bags. (If you define morality as the greatest good for the greatest amount of people.)

cazzie's avatar


Using baking paper… you sandwich the plastic between two pieces of baking paper and iron it carefully. It takes a bit of practice and mucking about with, but it creates a very durable fabric that can be sewn together.

dpworkin's avatar

@cazzie That’s kinda cool.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

The policy can’t be made at the clerk/ employee level. The way to effect the change is by pressing for an outright ban on such packaging by legislation. Only a few generations ago, people were expected to bring their own baskets or bags when shopping. Things just need a shove to go back in that direction. Not just bags either, all excessive packaging and non-reusable containers.

lilikoi's avatar

Plastic bags as an environmental issue is such an overrated cause – this coming from a staunch lifelong environmentalist. The plastic is thin, recyclable, and reusable. You’re going to bag your trash in a plastic bag anyway, might as well be that bag. There are far more pressing environmental issues than plastic shopping bags, just as we’ll save a lot more energy by looking for reduction at industrial and commercial facilities rather than by changing a few light bulbs to CFLs when there are few to no mechanisms for containing the mercury in them.

And really, supermarkets are hardly the problem; consumers make demands and retailers simply fulfill them. One can easily bring their own bags (as I try to do) and refuse taking plastic bags. As long as people want those bags, supermarkets will continue to provide them. It would be more productive to work at glamorizing the act of bringing your own bags or otherwise working for a behavioral change that would make the plastic bag obsolete.

I think the trade off of power seen w/ plastic bag bans is not justified or effective – it is another band-aid solution.

I am an engineer morally against everything the military represents – I chose not to work for them. If you are morally against giving out plastic bags to people, don’t work for a major supermarket that does.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I agree with @dpworkin that it’s a GQ for the fundamental issues it raises… but “plastic bags” is a relatively trivial example. That is, you can be as environmentally conscious as you wish to be, but you aren’t the gatekeeper for plastic bags. And plastic bags in and of themselves are pretty much a non issue environmentally. Oh, improper disposal is a problem, and non-biodegradable bags will last a long, long time before they break down (although they will)—but not all plastic bags are created alike. Many these days are made from corn starch derivatives that break down quite soon in sunlight.

Aside from the issue of whether people should or should not have plastic bags, the consumer can more than likely appeal to another cashier, or to your boss, or just avail himself of the bags that are within easy reach of the cashier station anyway, and bag his purchase as he wishes. You’d be risking your job, alienating your boss and pissing off his customers (if not driving them away) all for no good reason. (Paper bags have environmental issues of their own, quite aside from the fact that they’re made from trees. Spend some time around a paper mill someday and you’ll understand that better.)

If you have the courage of your convictions, whatever they are, then I suggest you start a business along the lines your conscience dictates, and see how that goes.

As for the moral issue, I do agree with the right of a pharmacist, for example, or a surgeon, to refuse to support termination of a pregnancy if he feels that strongly about it. It would be interesting to ask that person, though, how he would feel about the possibility of his daughter having been raped, and whether he would require her to carry her baby to term, too.

phillis's avatar

This is running dangerously close to Politically Correct thinking, and those with common sense can see that those people have lost their everloving minds. Common sense is at a premium these days because of idiots who would rather jump on the PC bandwagon to get kudos for being part of a pack mentality, than using their brains to form their own opinions.

First, global warming is not real. It was a farce whose roots can be traced back to the late 60’s – early 70’s by a very wily mind who now presides over the United Nations. All the little kiddies who could afford to pay the biggest bucks have positioned themselves to corner the market to reap ungodly rewards by providing “green” building materials, “green” this, and “green” that. The extra taxes that are already seen in France and other places is coming to a neighborhod near you, so be sure to pat yourself on the back for the fine job you did attending all those bullshit rallies. Your reward is to be taxed out the ass on everything you could possibly think of, to buy.

Second, there are already bags that can be bought for cheap that are resuable over and over again. So, let’s buy them and be done with it, okay? It keeps landfills from overflowing like so many chamber pots dumped onto city streets.

Third, making a stand against your boss on a job where you KNOW plastic bags are offered is a supremely stupid idea. Why not go hug a tree, or climb on a whale’s back? Maybe even ask for donations to rent a boat and go untangle dolphins from nets. Don’t forget to write us and let us know how that goes.

Trillian's avatar

@phillis Thank you for saving me the time.
Refuse to give out plastic bags the way pharmacists give out contraceptives. As if.
How ‘bout you buy paper bags and offer them as an alternate? And by the way, make sure all the clothes you wear are made out of un-dyed natural fibers, because of course you know how badly the textiles industry damages the environment. I hope you’re riding a bicycle to work and everywhere else you go. You know how much a car pollutes the air. And of course, every item in your house is recycled material, right? You don’t buy any plastic bottles of detergent or cleaner. No plastic juice bottles, or meat covered in plastic, right? You wouldn’t want to look like a hypocrite or anything.

dpworkin's avatar

@phillis I agree that plastic bags at the supermarket are relatively trivial, but your analysis of climate change is risible. It has been predicted by solemn, serious scientists since the 1959’s, and evidence for its existence only multiplies from year to year. You embarrass yourself by claiming otherwise.

phillis's avatar

@dpworkin You go ahead and be embarrassed for me all you want. Global warming is is the biggest crock since the ice age. It was designed for capitalists, by capitalists. Science tried to pull this shit in the 70’s, too, and they were dead wrong. I’m sure you recall that. Independent studies (read: non-government funded) concluded that global warming does not exist as a result of human influence, and highlighted how faulty measuring, to produce slanted data, was used.

Now, if you want to talk about cleaning up trash, reducing waste, recycling, and being responsible, I’m all for it.

Every manipulative trick our own government uses can also be found in the global warming scam, right down to Al Gore, whose carbon footprint from one house equates a small apartment complex. Now, that is an inconvenient truth. So much for panicking. Old Al isn’t worried a bit. I wonder why?

@Trillian A little common sense can keep your ass out of a whole lot of trouble. It isn’t all that different than rock hopping across a wide stream to avoid the slippery parts, is it?

Trillian's avatar

@phillis Sorry if I was unclear. Only my first sentence was directed at you. The rest was all for the OP.

anartist's avatar

I don’t know that a pharmacist legally has any right to refuse to provide contraceptives. As many have said above, he/she is not serving the customer, and should be fired.

As for the plastic bags, some stores have a policy of providing no bags at all [these are typically super discount places] and only put out boxes the product came in. A store-wide policy is ok—one employee acting on his/her own beliefs, not ok.

If the numbers of people with ethical issues about things grows maybe businesses will open to serve them e.g. Christian pharmacies. It’s all in the numbers [and the bottom line].

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, of course s/he can, and the employer can exercise their right to terminate their employment, as well, in any ‘at will’ state. The pharmacist you refer to no longer has a job where they were employed, either.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@anartist There actually was a “Christian” pharmacy in Maryland that wouldn’t sell birth control, condoms, etc.

It closed because no one frequented it.

downtide's avatar

It’s the management of the supermarket that decides their environmental policy on the use of plastic bags, not the cashier.

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