Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Are Your Rights: What Should They Be!?

Being a teacher who is involved with the political side of things, it is amazing how many people scoff at the idea of getting involved with their membership to the union, helping out with their profession, or anything else that is outside of their own classrooms. That is, until they actually need the help, and boy, they want the best help from their representation that they can get!

So why start a post on my health adventures this way? Well... when many people encounter health issues that need more than a doc once or twice a year, their health insurance and medical leave becomes very very important. As it has for me.

My doctor's office is only open Monday through Thursday 7:30am to 5pm. To put things into perspective, I have to be at work by 7am and while my contracted day is done at 2:30pm, many times I have mandatory meetings until at least 3:30pm. I am lucky to leave at 3pm on an average day. I have an hour afternoon commute. It is taxing to get to a 4pm appointment (usually the last one they will schedule). Every six weeks, I have to have a fasting blood test. The earliest I can get in is 7:30am. I have to take a 1/2 sick leave day.

You  might wonder why this is a big deal if I have the sick leave. It shouldn't be a big deal. As long as I have all my ducks in a row, it should not matter. But funny thing is, many employers might give you the sick leave, but I don't think they actually expect you to use it... ever.

But it gets even worse. I think employers will talk about the value of having that leave and not coming to work sick, yada yada yada, but when it is actually used, have a totally different attitude. There is a disconnect. I have also had the expereince of working at a science museum where if you had a job with sick leave entitlement, you could never take it because to call in sick meant there was no one to cover for you. We ran our schedules that thin. I remember many a night being so sick, I would sneak naps in some of the exhibits until I was needed to cash out a cashier because there was no one who could fill my position. It would mean overtime for someone else or the person doing the day shift staying all night. It was virtually impossible to use. And of course, you could never cash it out when you left. Use it or loose it. And at least at my science museum job, there were pretty strict rules about how you could use it. I had something like 4 weeks of sick leave accumulated by the time I had put in my notice. I thought about saying this is the last day I will work, I will take sick leave for four weeks and then my resignation would be the next day. Alas, against the rules.

So what do you do if you have an employer/boss who starts grumbling about the attendance of employees and you know some who have been legitimately out because of health and using sick leave? Do you confront the person and remind him/her of the rules? Or do you keep quiet and avoid the potential wrath of the person?  What do you do if you are the person who needs to use the sick leave for medical purposes?

I get 12 full sick days a year. I can accumulate up to 180 total sick days. I am no where near close. I got paid today, and I have 40 days of sick leave. To be fair, I have used 7.5 sick days this year.  But several of those were for sinus/ear/throat infections. Since my treatments, I have not been physically sick once!  If I had taken zero sick days in my career, I could have 96 days accumulated.

But that brings up an interesting point. I feel people should use sick leave if they have it. Not willy nilly or against the rules, but for a mental health day here and there as they so chose. I have always felt stress is bad on the body and I am learning even more about stress related health effects. Right now, get me really stressed and the next day, I will show you hives on my arms. Yup.

I have been pretty straight forward with the big boss at my work. I have been upfront with my diagnosis and told her it was a 3-4 year treatment. I thought she understood I would be gone for a 1/2 day here and there every six weeks. Now I am not sure if the bosses really understood what that meant. Do I say something else? I am going to choose not to say anything. Well, only if I am asked because our summer shut down is coming close and maybe I will wait till we start back. Why stir the pot if it is not at the boiling point?

From my general experience, it seems that Human Resource departments are not really Human and not really a Resource for the employee, but only for the employer. So if you don't have a union to watch out for our rights as an employee, who will protect you!? I don't really have to worry about my medical rights being taken away because I know I have help. But when I worked at other jobs, I felt very vulnerable and taken advantage of by my employers at different times.

Let's take it back another step. Forget about individual employers, but what should be universal human rights!?

Capt Mel

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