Dear Come Correct: Our business has definitely been affected by the recession. Some people were laid off. To prevent even more from being fired, we have had no raises this year, the annual company picnic was cancelled and so were paid holidays. If you want to take Thanksgiving off this year, you'll have to use a vacation day to do it. In addition, every employee is being furloughed one day a month for six months.
I can deal with all that—a diminished job is better than no job. But I don't know how to deal with the employee whose cubicle is right next to mine and who came to work sick last week. She sheezed and gasped all over her own phone and desk—and the copier, which we all use.
She was obviously ill—red, streaming eyes, runny nose and that sloppy sneeze. We could hear her on the phone telling her girlfriend how miserable she felt. But she didn't stay home! Why: "Don't tell anybody, but I'm going to use some of my sick days to make up for the vacation days they cut this year."
Today, the person who sits across from her is home with the cold she's so generously sharing with the rest of us. And I can feel my own throat beginning to tickle. And flu season isn't even here yet!
Is there something we can do or say to prevent this from happening again?
While I can sympathize with your sick colleague's desire to get back some of those vacation days she's being forced to donate to the company, playing sick isn't the way to go. (Many companies require a doctor's note if you're out for more than a couple of days, or if you're sick near a weekend or holiday…)
Your sick days are for use when you or someone in your immediate family (like a child) is sick.
Quietly drop into your HR person's office and explain the situation, and ask to have it looked into. It will probably result in a memo to staff reminding them how sick days are supposed to be used and requesting them to stay home and use them if they're ill. Some companies actually send employees home if they see they're ill. In a year when disease transmission is on the forefront of everyone's mind, and when the resurgence of diseases like Swine Flu is expected to cut a deep swath through office staffs, your employer will want to keep as many people healthy as possible. So if peer pressure doesn't get your vacation miser to stay home, flu season policy will.
Karen Grigsby Bates is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News, and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).
is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).