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Working Sick: Where’s the Line?

​Recently (meaning a couple months ago), NPR did a report featuring workers who go to work sick. For the majority, it was mainly older employees who tended to stay home while the younger workers were more apt to push through their illness to not miss work.

The major difference between these two groups were the ones who tended to stay home were those who had tenure and got paid sick time off or would otherwise not be punished for taking time off. This was the older set. Of those interviewed in the younger set, they told the reporter they almost always went to work sick because they did not have paid (or even unpaid) sick time that they were allowed to use. Illnesses ranged from painful migraines to colds, flu, and other contagious illnesses that involved vomiting and diarrhea at work. Those who went to work sick said they did so because they could not afford to lose the pay or their jobs.
I was reminded of this radio spot as I forced myself to go to work sick today out of the same fear. I’d called out the past two days with severe bronchitis but could not afford a write-up for missing any more time, so I stuck it out. I ended up getting worse throughout the day because I wasn’t able to rest or take the medications that I have been at work – they put me to sleep. Upon returning to work today, I also heard from several others that they’d had to call out sick this week too for the same thing and I know where it came from. One person who came in sick 2 weeks ago coughing up a storm and even bragging about having the flu and still working.
The question is: where does someone who lives paycheck to paycheck draw the line between going in sick and staying home for their own health and others? Is it worth losing money or even your job to keep others safe? How do you handle it? Comments are welcome.

At A Crossroad (Perblog Oct. 19, 2013)

PerBlog October 19, 2013

 

After spending the majority of this year out of work and the most recent 2-3 months couch-surfing after I lost my apartment, I am finally starting to get settled in at my new home.  It is 2 ½ hours from where I have been for the past decade, but St. Lucie County had just completely run out of opportunities for me. After my old boss passed away and the company closed behind him in January, I simply could not find work that was enough to take care of my basic needs. I’d found temp work here and there, but nothing permanent came through.  With my apartment several months behind, that was it.  I started another temp job and put my stuff into storage, staying between my car and a neighbor’s house (which quickly became very abusive situation).  I approached people that I trusted and no one was willing to let me stay with them until I got back on my feet so without an ounce of help from my friends and no family in the area, I had a choice to make:  continue being homeless and unable to care for myself much less my daughter, or make a change in my life.

It’s been a very difficult change to make.  150 miles away, a previous boyfriend was willing to take me in and provide food and shelter while I sought work and recovered my losses.  His family (3 kids of his own plus two extended family) has been welcoming and friendly as I try to find work here in a much bigger city and try to adjust, settle in and find my way around.  I am still looking for work, but do have some calls coming back for interviews and I am hopeful something will come through soon.  I have so much I need to catch up on – vital bills that can NOT be ignored but right now there isn’t a damn thing I can do about them.  I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that I am 2 ½ hours away from my daughter until I find work and get a couple paychecks in to be able to get back for visitation, the fact that my belongings are being auctioned off at storage because I couldn’t pay for it, and the fact that I lost two pets in the process, Topper and Moppit, my cat and my dog.  I have very little clothing with me, and only one of my journals – the most recent one – even though I had kept every one of my journals since I started writing them at age 9.  I had to leave when I had to leave, and that meant coming up with only what would fit in my car.  This is the third time in my life I’ve lost it all.  Isn’t it about damn time something other than being shit on becomes permanent in my life?

Well, with nothing to my name, here I am starting over yet again.  Praying to God something permanent comes in so I can once again have gas and food (it’s still scarce here in a household of seven), proper clothing, personal bills paid, and a little to live on.  After those basics are taken care of, I look forward to being able to fix the A/C in this house, as it’s got a bad circuit board and was 92F inside today and my asthma is suffering BADLY for being stuck in this hot, humid air and I’ve no means to get my medication.  Internet would be great too!  Right now my only reliable connection is at the library.  It’s sad, the things we take for granted when we have them constantly.  When not having certain things begins to affect one’s health however, I think there is justification for bitching a bit when trying to change the situation that wasn’t working isn’t itself immediately working.  My life has turned upside-down this year and fallen out from under me.  It is HARD.  Bear with me if I’m angry or depressed or bitter.  All that pretty hope and happiness idealism isn’t always possible.