The Washington Post writes today about how some organizations are using technology to spot Swine Flu outbreaks. It's a shame they did not suggest to employers that they should relax their attendance policies in regards to this possible flu epidemic. I found myself suddenly overcome with high fever, headaches, and heavy nasal congestion late last week. I have no idea if it is/was Swine Flu or not. I did notice that it was the fastest onset of all those symptoms that I have ever experienced in recent memory.
It was also the first serious case of the flu I have had in many years.
More importantly, my "new" employer showed no sympathy or concern for my illness, or the possibility that I might spread the illness to other worker. They needed my services too badly to relax their extremely tight attendance policy. After trying to log-in sick and having my time-off request rejected, I was left with no choice but to go back to work the day after I left early with the above-mentioned symptoms. The alternative was clearly spelled out, I would lose my job. In times like these a job is such a difficult thing to obtain. Sudafed is not quite so hard to procure.
Being a single person with no Cinderella around to help me, I also had to drag my sneezy, grumpy, sweaty self through grocery stores, pharmacies, and another store prior to knocking myself out with medication each evening. Did I expose other people to my illness recklessly? Yes, I suppose I did but unemployment was a greater concern at that point.
I did not go to a doctor because I did not want to somehow be forced to stay away from work, and lose my job. My illness is documented only here, and so few people read this blog that it might as well be a billboard in a basement.
When I asked I was clearly told that I am not allowed to take any earned vacation days, I'm too new and too low on the totem pole. I had already taken 1.5 days off in my first 4 months on the job. If you exceed three days off in the first six months you are told to find a new job.
I know where I caught my flu, Swine or not. At my workplace. I know that having three days off in a row in my regular work schedule this week probably kept me out of the public realm longer than other people suffering from this nasty bug. I also know that employers should consider being less pennywise and more pound foolish when it comes to an obviously ill worker.
Other than losing about 5 pounds, the long term consequences of my actions I have yet to learn. What my public actions caused to those around me I do not know, though I did make a point to keep 3 meters between me any most people. But all those months without a job or health insurance or good prospects taught me one thing. Follow every rule precisely at this new position, it may be the last job with benefits that I find in years to come.