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AP-NORC/SAP poll: 1 in 4 US workers have weighed quitting

NEW YORK (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has put millions of Americans out of work. But many of those still working are fearful, distressed and stretched thin.

A quarter of U.S. workers say they have even considered quitting their jobs as worries related to the pandemic weigh on them, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in collaboration with the software company SAP. A fifth say they have taken leave.

About 7 in 10 workers cited juggling their jobs and other responsibilities as a source of stress. Fears of contracting the virus also was a top concern for those working outside the home.

The good news is that employers are responding. The poll finds 57% of workers saying their employer is doing “about the right amount” in responding to the pandemic; 24% say they are “going above and beyond.” Just 18% say their employer is “falling short.”

That satisfaction seems largely related to physical protections from the virus, which overwhelming majorities of workers considered very important. Still, at least half also say it is very important for their employers to expand sick leave, provide flexibility for caregivers and support mental health, and workers report less satisfaction with efforts in these areas.

Lower income workers were especially likely to have considered quitting — 39% of workers in households earning less than $30,000 annually versus just 23% in higher income households.

John Roman, a senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, said those findings likely reflect fears of exposure of the virus among those who can’t work from home. Hourly wage workers are also less likely to feel attachment to a job, making them more likely to search for safer work, he said.

“This is perhaps the most surprising finding,” Roman said. “The people who can least afford to lose their jobs are leaving jobs in higher numbers. But it fits with the story that they feel unsafe health-wise.”

While 65% of remote workers say their employers are doing a good job protecting their health, just 50% of those working outside the home say that.

The pandemic is weighing heavily on women and people of color, who are most likely to work in essential jobs they can’t do remotely.

Fifty percent of women call the pandemic a major source of stress in their lives, compared to 36% of men. Sixty-two percent of Black workers and 47% of Hispanic workers say it is, compared to 39% of white workers.

Jamelia Fairley, a single mother who works at a McDonald’s in Florida, said managers initially told her to make masks out of coffee filters and hairnets. Although she now gets protective gear, she said workers often have to serve customers who refuse to wear masks.

“I feel like they should provide us with better protection by having the masks be mandatory, not just for us but for customers,” said Fairley, who has seen her weekly hours cut nearly in half and has joined a strike to support raising Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

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