This Vacation Blows

Athena ScalziEveryone knows the drill by now. You work from home in your sweats, you have a dozen Zoom calls a  day, and you avoid the outside world like the plague (because, duh). But of course, there’s our essential workers, too. Those who are out in the world every day, providing much-needed services ,who just have to straight up live with the very real possibility that they will get sick. And they’ve been given the titles of “heroes”, but what does it really mean? What does it mean to call essential workers “troopers” and “brave” but then yell at the Applebee’s hostess for saying you can’t sit inside? Or when you admire nurses and doctors for tirelessly battling this pandemic, but can’t be bothered to wear a mask when you go buy champagne for your fuckin’ mimosas?

At the very beginning of the pandemic, I worked at a bakery. I knew that with all the new changes to eateries and stores, unemployment was sure to follow in the wake of the virus (of course, I never expected the absolutely enormous percentage that ended up occurring, because damn). So I told my boss that if she needed to cut back on scheduling people, to cut me out first. I didn’t need the money. And that’s exactly what she did. I didn’t work for a month. I can’t imagine if I actually had needed that check.

The whole “heroes” thing is a whole ‘nother topic that I tend to get really heated about (hazard pay, anyone?), but it’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about my friend, who is an essential worker, and share a little bit of their story with working during a pandemic.

My friend has worked at the same company for two and a half years. They work ten-hour shifts, Monday-Thursday, and when the pandemic started they worked twelve hour shifts, Monday-Friday, from March until October. And never, not once, did they ever take a day off or be late to work in all the time they’ve worked there.

A couple months ago, my friend’s father got COVID, and they were exposed to it. So of course, they told their boss that they could be infected and needed to take time off to quarantine. And their boss responded with questions such as “are you symptomatic?” and “how close did you get to your dad?”, and eventually said “well, ultimately, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

My friend is given 40 hours of vacation time a year. So, when their boss wouldn’t give them they time off, they spent it all on quarantining. And, yeah, you’re supposed to quarantine for two weeks, not one, but they did their best. They did everything in their power to be responsible when their boss so obviously isn’t.

The cherry on top? Their boss is their father’s uncle. And he didn’t give a shit that his nephew had COVID, or that his relative/employee was exposed, and he definitely didn’t give a fuck that his employee could’ve given COVID to all the other employees.

I just want to reiterate that my friend used their VACATION DAYS solely to protect their coworkers from possibly getting sick. It wasn’t a trip to Hawaii, it was staying at home, alone, waiting to see if they got sick. That’s not a fucking vacation. It’s a necessary precaution in a pandemic, and it shouldn’t be treated as if the employee is choosing to take off work just for shits and giggles. It is an attempt to save lives, protect others, and flatten the curve.

What I’m trying to say is, if you’re an employer, please give your workers sick leave. Please stop telling them to come in even if they’re sick. I know from experience that employers have a bad habit of minimizing employees’ ailments every chance they get, just so they can have an extra fucking bagger or shelf stocker around. We are in the third wave of a pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands of people. Please please please let your employees stay home if they are sick or have been exposed to COVID.

And have a great day.

-AMS

60 Comments on “This Vacation Blows”

  1. Most businesses hire ‘just enough’ to cover thier needs and no more. This leads to chronic understaffing when someone quits or is fired, which is made worse by a pandemic when you need to quarentine and your employer refuses.

    It is a certain hell now for those that still have to GO to work (like myself). and we get nothing more than more stress, and more risk, while someone thinks they are rewarding us by calling us Hero’s

  2. It’s Ohio. People will go to their graves shouting that they don’t have COViD because it doesn’t exist. Or at least they will until intubation shuts them up.

  3. > employers have a bad habit of minimizing employees’
    > ailments every chance they get

    Yep. And this won’t be our last or worst pandemic. For viruses, the growing human population is an unending supply of fresh meat. People gather in social groups, party with strangers, and fly around the world. People crowd animals out of wildland habitats and pick up — and spread — their viruses.

    We need to learn some obvious lessons from this virus — like the lesson you point out so clearly in this blog. We need to change unemployment insurance and health insurance to require compliance with and pay people for quarantine time. And we need contact tracing to include pointing the finger at employers who interfere with public health quarantines.

    Because there will be another disease coming, and it will be worse.

  4. Restaurants are (in lots of cases) morasses of how to pay people as little as possible. It seems obvious that if you build a restaurant that could get killed by one inconvenient bout of food-borne illness, sick leave would seem to be a good idea for your employees, but no. So, the idea that you don’t really care that lots of your customers could die because doing otherwise could cost you money (particularly if it’s deniable – if no one’s going to actually know that you were not willing to do anything to avoid killing them) is…unsurprising.

    It seems like sick leave would have been a good idea, but I’m assuming restaurants and other food places are hoping that the industry can socialize the costs of sick leave for employees rather than having an industry-wide cooperative cover them (and them having to charge us more to eat there or buy their food). I guess playing Russian roulette with your business and customers and employees has been good so far?

  5. State law determines how many sick days employees get. Most states give a few days a year, which is worthless in a pandemic that requires 2 weeks of quarantine after an exposure before a test can definitively rule out that you got sick. That would be 6 weeks a year for quaratining for any job that gets exposed 3 times a year. It adds up.

    Since the incubation periid is so long, what some places do is weekly test all employees and try to minimize inter contamination.

    Ideally, the government provides free, easy testing for everyone. Possibly mandating it for high risk jobs. Cause that is about the only way to catch who has it and quarantine as quick as possible.

    As for hazard pay, i know some states are doing that for medical workers. Again, it is state to state, and in the now solid red state of Ohio, people would rather pretend the pandemix doesnt exist than admit Trump has any responsibility for his terrible pandemic response.

    Things are getting real bad, real fast, so all you can do is quarantine as much as possible to try and stay aaay from the covidiots. And hope they darwin award themselves.

    Good luck!

  6. Well said.

    I don’t want sick (or potentially exposed) co-workers to infect me, but there’s always pressure – often unspoken but definitely there – for people to come in and work, even if they’re not well. I mean, Dayquil actually says “The non-drowsy, coughing, aching, fever, sore throat, stuffy head, no sick days medicine” – regardless of whether or not you’re infectious, apparently.

    At the very least, people should be able to use their sick leave for quarantine time. It would be nice if it could be treated like jury duty or national guard service: a requirement that the worker must fulfill and the employer needs to accommodate.

  7. I’m seeing this everywhere. Both employers asking employees to come in if they are asymptomatic or if waiting for test results, and requiring employees to use vacation time if they are quarantining. My employer requires employees to not work if COVID-positive or if quarantining because of potential exposure. AND my employer requires the employee to use vacation time to do so. It’s both ridiculous and evil.

    To an earlier point in your post: Essential workers are exactly that, essential. And their compensation should reflect that. They should also get PPE provided to them as part of the job.

  8. The Co-Op where we get most of our food (New Pioneer in Coralville, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City, IA) has an excellent curbside pickup service. AND they are treating their essential workers fairly: providing paid quarantine time as needed, and giving every employee a $2 per hour bonus.

    I think EVERY essential worker deserves quarantine pay. And the government ought to help small business with the cost of that.

  9. I have so many thoughts on this, but mostly wanted to say that I’m really impressed with your writing and I wish I had some way to say “it’s maturing so fast” without sounding like a querulous auntie, but there you are. It’s not that it was worse when you started here, it’s just sounding so much more grown up all the time.

  10. For fuck’s sake, there’s LAW about this, people! Every time I hear about employer abuses like this I grit my teeth because it is ALL on the employee to find out what they are entitled to BY LAW and the employer can go “la la la, I don’t have to help you.” Does Ohio have a Department of Human/Employee Rights like Illinois? Maybe a phone call there would help your friend, who is clearly a DECENT HUMAN BEING and also working full time. Those health questions are against the law too! Have them ask about FMLA or more correctly EFMLA, which is in place until the end of the year to support workers during the pandemic. And maybe they don’t want to get in a struggle over their income, which I totally get too. Gah. But if your friend gets sick, they should fucking sue, and then quote their boss saying “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” Because obviously he is a health professional.

    I don’t think this is very coherent because I am MAD. And CAPSY. I guess I work for a radical organization because we want our workers to be healthy and productive.

  11. I am so sorry that this happened to your friend. And I am very impressed that you offered to be laid off first, since you didn’t need your job to survive. Your parents have raised a daughter with honor & integrity.

  12. My son had a similar experience–dispatcher for a medical transport company. He is high risk due to medication and several syndromes, and was advised by his doctor to take a safety leave.

    His HR talked him out of filing FMLA leave. Which meant he had to use all of his PTO.

    When he was medically allowed to go back, he had a flare of one of his conditions. In spite of having medical excuses, he was fired for absenteeism. And his unemployment is being held up. We’re helping him, but…THIS SHOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED. Period.

  13. I second the recommendation for your friend to contact Ohio’s workforce or labor agency, or whichever state agency handles equal rights complaints. I am not an attorney and I don’t know Ohio’s laws, but I guess I’d be surprised if there is zero provision made to protect employees in situations like your friend found themselves in.

    As a side note, unless your friend is FLSA-Exempt, which I suspect is unlikely, they should have gotten overtime for all those months of 60-hour work weeks. That, too, is a topic to raise with Ohio’s equal rights commission or agency if your friend was either paid straight time, or not paid extra at all, for the hours in excess of 40 per week.

    One other possibility would be to check the blog Ask A Manager, which has a whole section of posts specifically about work and COVID and leave taken due to COVID exposure, including information about legal protections.

    And you are absolutely correct that that not-a-vacation-at-all really blows, and it is entirely reasonable and appropriate that you are pissed off about it. Hell, I am pissed off myself, and I don’t even know the person involved. Employers take advantage of their employees again and again and again – they get caught, scolded, maybe even fined, and they go right back and do it again.

    This is why unions were formed, you know. And this is also why big business hates unions.

  14. What.

    You.

    Wrote.

    Preach it, sister!

    You’re too young to remember (hell, I’m too young to remember, too) but back when America was bombed by a member of the Axis in 1941, Americans sprang into action in the face of an existential threat.

    People planted victory gardens. They did scrap drives. They held War Bond sale rallies and bought bonds and stamps. They learned and practiced blackout procedures. They even learned to use (and carried, for a while, in some places) gas masks. They accepted rationing for essential commodities necessary to the war effort – food, gasoline, tires, clothing, etc.

    All of that was MUCH more onerous than wearing a mask, practicing basic hygiene and social distancing.

    Of course, back then, we had a government that recognized the existential threat and also sprang into action and mobilized all patriotic Americans to participate.

    Imagine, if you will, how different things would be had Weehands McNodick, in February 2020, said:

    “This is an existential threat that could kill thousands of Americans and we must mobilize NOW. We must retool factories to stockpile PPE and treatment tools. We must mobilize all our brilliant researchers to study and identify treatments and a vaccine, and share knowledge with allies around the world in addressing this threat. We must recruit an army of contact tracers and public health volunteers in every community and supply them with what is needed to address community transmission. We must learn, each and every one of us, safe public health procedures, NOW, and as your President I will be the first to do this. And I will allocate all the resources of the Federal Government to undertake this mobilization program.”

    How many Americans would still be alive?

    How patriotic would it be to wear your mask, and look after the well-being of your family, your neighbors, your employees and your community members?

    And who would have been (re-)elected President on November 3rd?

    Instead, we have one batch of willfully ignorant self-absorbed loudmouth fellow-citizens claiming that patriotism is a gun still warm from taking out their “leftwing” “antifa” “terrorist” neighbors, family members, etc. And one batch of anxiety-ridden, angry, barely-daring-to-hope fellow citizens trying to prepare to clean up the mess in the face of that bitter anger and opposition.

    Stay strong, keep writing, Athena. You are Hope.

  15. I hope your friend and their dad get better and survive this with no side effects. As an essential worker (and business owner) I have very strict rules that apply to everyone at work, currently 4 people.
    1: family first, dot, period, the end. If you have a family emergency I request you let me know about it, eventually, but we can sort it out later. an emergency is an emergency.
    2: if your feeling sick, you take the day off
    3: If you are running a fever, you stay home, which has been a rule since before covid, I myself have been posting my temperature on facebook every morning since this thing started.
    My job? I fix things. washers, dryers, refrigerators, heating and cooling systems, basically things people need in the home to make life ever so slightly easier. Am I at risk? yes. Do I take precautions? HELL yes! and so far I have been lucky, did I take time off because we were shut down? No. Did I get any extra in my paycheck like those one unemployment get? no (where’s the love). Do I complain? constantly, but this particular soap box moment is the most I have done.
    Do I care? Yes, which is why I do what I do. what I must, What we all must. persevere and help everyone we can get through this trying time.

    p.s. have you made your dad the biscotti yet?

  16. I think its a federal requirement that corporations keep cash on hand to cover all saved vacation time of all employees. So, if everyone took vaca, the company had money to keep paying their workers.

    This is a reasonable requirement, but corporations dont like it because they would rather use the money for something else. Gold plating on the executive toilets, for example. So you will often find while companies follow the law, they also try to set up their workers so they have to keep using up their vacation hours for things like being sick. A year end “shut down” can be common. They pitch it as a way to take time off for the holidays and be with your family, but its unpaid, so if you want a paycheck around new years, you have to use up some of your vacation time to cover the “shutdown”. The less vacation you have saved up, the more money they can spend elsewhere.

  17. What you said here is very powerful and very true and I think very lowly of your friends boss/uncle

    We really need at a federal level to be helping the people who have to work and those that can’t
    I myself have been laid off for 7 months
    Of course why the federal (or state) governments are not doing what they should (IMO) be doing is a whole other post (or several)

  18. I apologize for a second post in the same thread (I know that’s frowned upon) but here is some data from Ask A Manager about federal law surrounding COVID leave:

    Quote begins:
    An emergency law has expanded family and medical leave — and it’s paid. The new law only applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees and some public agencies. If you’re at a covered company, you are eligible for paid sick leave if you’re unable to work because you’re quarantined, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, need to care for someone subject to quarantine, or need to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed for reasons related to COVID-19.
    End quote

    The law referenced is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, or FFCRA. It is valid through December 31 of this year. It includes, among other things, up to 80 hours of paid leave at a person’s regular rate of pay if they are unable to work due to being quarantined. Tax credits are available to the employer to offset the cost.

    I should have hunted that up before I posted the first time, I realize – again, my apologies. And very good luck to your friend.

  19. > I apologize for a second post in the same thread (I know that’s frowned upon) but here is some data from Ask A Manager about federal law surrounding COVID leave:

    good to know (many don’t) thanks CS

  20. Problem is people are looking at mortality rate and think “Eh, it’s like .3 percent, it’s gonna be fine”, but what it leaves out is that COVID-19 does damage to your internal organs and THAT stays, hopefully scientist will figure out the cure. COVID-19 CAN cripple you. AFAIK, in first months of pandemia there were reports of a man in Crimea that had light form of COVID and lost 70% of lungs capacity or something to that effect. Stay safe. Stay masked.

    P.S.
    40 HOURS of vacation time is a travesty and not altogether sane..

  21. From my admittely far-away view from the cushy office jobs of Northern Europe, that sounds just horrible. Twelve hour shifts five days a week? Forty hours of (I assume paid) vacation every year? What? No time for Covid-19 isolation?

    Uh, it sounds like the employer is trying to kill their workers either by overworking them and not letting them recover or just by Covid.

    I also have the feeling that the workers are not at their best doing that kind of hours with few vacations, of course without knowing anything about what the company is doing. At least from what I’ve seen both at work and in studies says that after about 8 hours a day the productivity of workers drops quite much, as does the quality of their work.

  22. It always blows my mind how bad your labour laws are. In the Netherlands the minimum amount of vacation days is four work weeks, most jobs have five or six weeks off. By law you have to spent 2 workweeks of vacation in a row once a year. Life is for living not for working,

  23. Other than a small handful of well-known philanthropists, Americans in general and Trump supporters in particular have a certain reputation. In Game Theory terms, they are in the “always renege” group. That is to say, “Everyone who is not me can go to hell in a handcart for all I care, as long as I don’t catch any heat because of it.”

    You, Athena, are so not that! Thank you!

  24. Yay, free market capitalism. I can feel the efficiency from here across the Pond. The klepto-gerontocracy needs its pound of flesh and will be fed.

    Remember to let anyone who tells you to move to another country because of being mad at shit like this, that you can’t because of shit like this happening. As another inmate at a slightly different asylum (England) I feel you.

  25. The state of US workers conditions is incomprehensible from my German point of view.

    I have a legally guaranteed right to 4 weeks of paid vacation and most employers give more (I currently have 6 weeks of vacation per year and could swap the equivalent amount of salary for 2 additional weeks).

    I have zero sick days. Not because my employer is crummy, but because the whole concept of sick days doesn’t exist in Germany. If I’m sick, I stay at home at full pay (doctor’s note after the third consecutive day required, at 60% after 60 days). This is not a luxury only attainable for a small set of lucky highly educated people; it’s the legal mandate open to everyone, even minimum wage earners.

  26. It’s up to the employees to come up for their rights. If hey’re made redundant because of that, there are the courts to sue. Don’t understand US employees who have a contract for working 40 hours a week, but are expected by their employer to put in 60 hours. If you expect your employee to put in 60 hours, you have to give them a contract for 60 hours, or otherwise not be astonished when the employee pulls out after his daily 8 hours shift.

  27. Wait, why does the employer get to decide if your friend is sick or not? Surely a quick note from a doctor (presumably obtained via Zoom meeting) would solve the issue, or is employment law so messed up in Ohio that even that wouldn’t cut it?

  28. I worked 30 years for the State of New York. We had excellent benefits, including sick leave. But if you actually called in sick, you can be sure that your supervisor would seriously try to guilt you out of being sick because they didn’t want to give overtime to the person who would be mandated to cover your shift. Lots of people came to work with cold and flu symptoms. I wonder if it’s any different in this pandemic.

  29. @Granny Roberta: I find that very annoying: it’s the job of the management to have enough people to cover for people being away. Just guilting everybody to basically to come to work sick is bad management in multiple ways. (Starting from the fact that coming to work sick might well infect others who might then have to take sick leave…)

  30. Many people claim they think doctors and nurses are heroes and should be paid more. Then it’s time to pay their tax and they tell their accountant what they really think of them.

    Or they go the ballot box and vote for a tax break that will them have a little luxury while ensuring hospital wait times get longer.

  31. First, my heart goes out to your friend.

    Second, agreed 100 percent.

    That story is outrageous!

    Equally outrageous are comments from former friends who voted for Trump over decisive action against the pandemic because “business!” “taxes” and “401K!”

    I get that wanting to protect tribe and family, even at the expense of others, is supposed to be a natural, “human” thing and that one of the best ways to do that is to protect your wealth and livelihood.

    I also get that expressing gratitude for frontline workers, medical professionals in particular, while at the same time endangering them, overwhelming their resources (tangible or otherwise) and taking them for granted is beneath contempt.

    What we’re witnessing is the height of selfishness and ignorance.

    I said this back in March and mean it as keenly as I did then; anyone openly flouting safety measures and/or encouraging others to do so should not be treated for covid 19 should they contract it.

    They are very, very lucky we don’t do things the way they were done during the time of black plague, when entire households were sealed into their homes until the illness had a chance to cycle through the entire family. It is profoundly unjust that someone who eschewed masks and social distancing because politics should be rewarded with a bed while an otherwise responsible essential worker of a certain age and condition goes untreated because care rationing.

    Unfortunately, medical professionals are morally and professionally obligated to treat ignorant assholes (is this namecalling or identifying well-documented behavior with well-documented consequences?) better than they deserve.

    Covidiots owe every essential worker on the planet an apology, particularly if they employ and dehumanize them in the name of gain and profit. Full stop.

    Businesses and/or individual employers engaged in that kind of fuckery earn an immediate boycott and public dragging from me, because patronizing them is unsafe and because they’re terrible people.

  32. Hank the fourth commenter noted “We need to learn some obvious lessons.” Maybe so, but we won’t. Were any obvious lessons from Vietnam (hearts and minds, cover your ass paperwork, Ugly Americans, and more) applied to the war on drugs? No, those lives in Nam were wasted.

    Were any lessons from WWII applied to the war on terror? (national effort, demonizing, quitting university—not to be a serviceman, to be a civilian female interpreter to nurture families, (to thereby prevent recruiting for the insurgency) having their door kicked in at night by scary G.I.s)

    Were the government’s written down lessons from SARS and so forth (such as stockpiling masks and gowns) followed, or did the reports gather dust? We all know the answers, but we pretend not to.

    I forget who said it first, but, “The only thing we learn from history is we don’t learn from history.”

    Kids today don’t know the horrors of life before unions, or of the (literally) bloody obstacles to unionizing. For kids who don’t read too good, I might suggest movies such as “Harlan County, U.S.A,” “Norma Rae” “Erin Brockovitch” and maybe (I haven’t seen it) “The Grapes of Wrath.” Also, I only read the book, not the movie (an eye opener for government surveillance) but maybe “The Killing of Karen Silkwood.”

    …Oh, and I hope your friend didn’t go to work and cough all over the boss’s office.

  33. Same reaction as many other Europeans above:
    – 4w basic holidays entitlement per year, plus sector/age entitlement, with minimum 2 consecutive weeks required
    – sick days, covered by doctor’s note as of second day, full pay for the first month, then 60% covered by sector insurance.
    I guess that is why we pay higher taxes – and what is decried in the US as « socialism ».

    Hubby caught Covid. The workplace social nurse called him to follow up on his health – and when he got back to work, to make sure he was in shape. They had too many ppl trying to come early and relapsing/not being able to put up a full day. They figure it’s better you take a few more days rather than come early but drag on for weeks at sub level.
    The rest of us had to quarantine, and where needed doctor made a note for school/employer.
    It’s a pain to see the part of your pay that goes into tax and social security contribution. But in situations like this, well… we remember why it’s worth it.

  34. When my state locked down in March, April and into May, my wife had been working a position that required her to work in stores (grocery stores, big box stores) doing product marketing. She had to spend anywhere from one hours to four and a half hours in any of these stores across a five county area. She was a contract tracer’s worst nightmare.

    Since the state locked down by governor’s mandate, her employer could not force her to go to work. Their legal department bent over backwards to describe her position as essential, yet even the most extensive list of positions in a third revised list from the state did not include her position in the list of essential workers exempted from the lock down. That list even put my job in that category (I am a Cloud Based System Administrator who enables remote work, which was hilarious to me to see that jammed into the list in the third revision since almost everyone I know working these position was already remote capable by definition, but I digress.). Her job making sure that very specific products were stocked on shelves and faced properly with marketing displays was not essential. Yet her employer tried on multiple fronts to try and urge her back to work. Including a form letter signed by C-Suite type calling her position ‘essential’ and those workers, who were all hourly, part time, non-benefited, ‘heroes’. They sent her one reusable mask, two disposable surgical style mask and a box of single use, disposable latex gloves, with two handouts: one on how to wear a mask and social distance properly, the other was on how to put on and remove the gloves properly.

    But somehow also realizing the winds were against them, they decided to release all personal time in one large batch, instead of the trickle out of an hour and change per pay period. This time was then required by the employer to be used of the employee did not work during a state mandated lock down. So my wife, deciding to value her health and safety over the stocking of disposable razors and baked, individually wrapped snack foods, stayed home and burned her entire years worth of earned personal time in under a week. She was also granted two weeks of partial pay but required to do all online training during that time and her weekly planning for store visits that she was not going to do. So she still had to work to get that pay even though it was being granted to her benevolently.

    When the lock down ended, her boss asked when she would be returning to work. My wife replied back with a list of safety questions regarding her position. Since her ‘office’ was a bunch of stores with very different requirements, she asked how her job would protect her. None of the stores had a mask requirement. None of the stores did anything to enforce social distancing outside of stickers on the floor and those were only at the register lines. Her boss told her to mask up and distance from people. Nothing more, and again asked when she was going to return. My wife asked again what the safety plan was, for specific details. She was told to rely on store personnel and policies to enforce safety on their customers. My wife explained the stores she had to go to had no mask requirements and were not enforcing anything on customers. We knew this from personal experiences. Her boss had no reply to her questions and instead looped the HR department into the conversation and ‘wished that the conversation had gone differently’.

    She was let go two days later when she again pressed her boss, the district boss and HR rep to clarify their safety policy in regards to her very specific and as of yet, unanswered safety questions. She was told she could apply for any new posted openings at any time she felt like trying to regain employment with them.

    For the record, her former employer does $1.85B in annual revenue with 37k employees.

  35. That’s medieval. Seriously. The fact alone that you count your yearly vacation in hours makes that clear.
    We have five weeks paid vacation per year and additional 13th and 14 monthly salary. And not a single minute of this has to be spent when it comes to COVID. You feel sick or assume that that you’ve been in contact with a spreader? You stay at home on paid sick-leave-quarantine and get tested. That’s not only the law, it’s also something my boss insists on.
    He has also made a private contract with a laboratory, in case public testing gets at its limits, where he sends everyone who only so much as sneezes on the company grounds. We bought thousands of masks because a company with hundreds of people gets much better purchasing conditions than a single person, and passed them on to employees for them and their families. We have sent people into home office wherever possible – not an easy feat in a manufacturing company. We have a company doctor for counsel and supervision.
    Yeah, that’s how it should be in civilised countries.Not an employer deciding arbitrarily if someone is healthy enough to work or not.

  36. cryptomathecian @ 6.54:

    With very few exceptions, US workers do not have written employment contracts. About 75% of us are considered “at-will” employees, meaning that we can be fired from our jobs for any reason or no reason, at any time, with no warning, as long as the reason is not illegal.

  37. On point.

    Employers in general aren’t going to follow the law if there aren’t strong unions, or if the costs of compliance are higher than the costs of non-compliance.

    They’re also not going to follow the law if they don’t know what it is, or if there is “guidance” in place of legislation, or if someone’s crazy uncle in the white house classifies their employees as essential personnel. But I digress.

  38. My brother’s girlfriend recently got laid off from a job she held for 33 years. Her firm seems to be trying to do the right thing by its former workers (they laid off dozens), but . . . there wasn’t even an internet the last time she looked for a job. On top of everything else (grief, worry, etc.), I can’t even imagine the bewilderment.

  39. I can only say this,
    We have long ago stopped expecting any company or employer to “do the right thing.”
    With the governmental shit show hopefully ending, we still don’t expect our representatives to look after us either. With that said, our families plan was and still is to long ago very carefully call bullshit to the system of buy whatever the fuck you want and put it on credit. This is how many people get trapped into having to work from paycheck to paycheck to make those bills. It took a while, but we, in the truest sense of fiscal conservatism, have the very carefully built up savings to be able to tell viperish pieces of shit employers goodbye when they try to pull said health risking stunts. Sadly most folks get trapped by debt before they can get to that point.
    Dave
    P.S. A lot of this reminds me of your fathers excellent essay “Being Poor” except in these current times it’s ” Being Poor, Sick, Trapped and Sadly Fucked”

  40. Amen. I count myself lucky that I have a job I can do from home. They gave us laptops and told us not to come back. My team will probably work from home until a vaccine is available to everyone, since we can do all the essentials without needing to go to the office at all.

    So when I go to the store, I wear my mask, I keep my distance, and I say please and thank you. Common courtesy is the least you can do.

  41. Well said Athena!

    We went to our eye doctor today, and tomorrow (or perhaps the next day!) will go shopping again, hoping to accumulate enough material to stay home the rest of the year. We’re retired, with decent pensions and Social Security. I fear the next few weeks will be terrifying, given the accelerating upward curve of infections and the holidays coming up.

    When I visited Kroger’s yesterday, it was obvious that most of the many shoppers were buying for the typical Thanksgiving holiday dinner for a big crowd. We intend to spend the Thanksgiving holiday at home, the two of us, alone. We may visit briefly with neighbors, at a safe distance. We’ve known these folks for 35 years, and won’t hug as usual at all.

    Thanks for the well said piece about health and work!

  42. Families first act allows the employee to get 10 Paid sick days. The Employer pays the employee and federal government pays employer back.

    Please let your friend know. You can google it….its a fairly easy read.

    Small businesses dont understand the law and think they have to pay it. The law frightens them, but it is a great solution for exactly the situation you describe. Good luck!

  43. And cue our democratic governor poised to employ draconian (they’re necessary with one million cases) safety measures while flouting the “no fucking large indoor gatherings “rule himself.

    Partying for me but not for thee? Really?

    Community minded folks are putting others’ needs ahead of their own, complying with business closure requirements and giving up Thanksgiving with the people they love and this guy attends a dinner party as covid cuts a swath through his constituents?

    He’s no better than the red state covidiots determined to “celebrate Thanksgiving with as many friends and family members as [they] can find.”

    Either he has access to immunity drugs (we know he and his family are getting top of the line healthcare), is afflicted with the ignorant asshole gene common among science-denying pro-covid spreaders or is resting so comfortable on his low difficulty setting that the rank hypocrisy of his behavior isn’t registering.

    https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/california/report-newsom-attends-outdoor-birthday-party-in-napa-county/103-fdd13e5f-902a-4d18-9e32-5f3431de6392

    This will go a long way toward getting the “freedom” brigade to see reason. / sarcasm.

  44. Roberta, one of the challenges anywhere in the US in accessing government services is the ordeal applicants must go through. Even with federal and state-level employee rights and protections available, applicants don’t want to go through it.

    One is it can be impractical, with long waits and to go to an inconvenient out-of-the-way government office. Suburban offices are out of the way for people relying on bus service or taxi/Uber to get to them; conversely, offices in downtowns often charge for parking and a deterrent for the working poor who have a car but can’t afford the marginal cost of parking.

    The other is a uniquely American predicament. The “government is the problem” message is thoroughly internalized among Americans. There’s a hurdle of shame to overcome, and there’s the scrutiny placed on the applicants. If you live in a small or rural community where you are in tune to local gossip, you face the stigma of going to the government for help.

  45. Damn Straight.

    I’m from Melbourne, Australia. We’ve recently had rather a bad second wave. And you know what the prime exacerbating factor was? People who were employed by labour hire companies. if they didn’t take a shift, even if they were awaiting the results of a COVID test, they wouldn’t get another one. They had no sick leave, no chance of making the rent if they missed work. Often they had extended families to support. Slowly, eventually, the Trade Union movement here negotiated for income support for workers who had to take time off. Eventually, we turned the corner.

    I can only imagine how much worse it is in Trump’s America.

  46. Colonel Snuggledorf is right. The FFCRA covers this. I’m a tiny employer (two employees that aren’t me), and one of my employees took her 10 days as CDC-mandated when she tested positive. I listed it on her timesheet as “emergency COVID sick time, my payroll company flagged it as “COVID-19,” and it will show up on my quarterly tax filing. *sigh* Why is it so hard to be a decent human?

  47. Because decency almost always involves some degree of sacrifice and a willingness of people to consider the wellbeing of people not them or theirs.

    We don’t appear to be very big on decency in this country, though we talk a good game. :(