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Job is on the skids due to calling out sick

Nurse Beth   (330 Views | 1 Replies)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Writer Innovator Expert Nurse

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

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Dear Nurse Beth,

I work in an outpatient clinic connected with a corporation of hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabs, LTCs, etc. They are the biggest, only game in town. My workplace has a very strict call out policy: 7 occurrences (as of 2020 policy changes, they gave us an additional step in the "corrections process" to bring it to the 7) which are call outs for ANY reason or even a minute late. When you reach 7, you are fired. It doesn't matter if you have a work excuse note, if you were in a car accident, if you were hospitalized, or if you get sent home by a provider. It doesn't matter that I'm the only one in the role, that they haven't been able to replace my coworker despite MONTHS of advertising and incentivizing the position, or that I've received stellar feedback from the providers I work with.

I have two more and I'm gone: each time has been for a very real medical reason, covered by a note for medical necessity. On top of it, I have a LONG history of depression and anxiety, mostly in remission until about a month ago when I went from being hospitalized for septicemia to being in a car accident a couple of weeks after discharge. With the hospitalization, I couldn't help calling out. However, I still made it in after my car accident with a minute to spare before I would have been considered tardy. Management didn't show one iota of caring, other than to remind me of the attendance policy and that I was "on thin ice".

Between what I've gone through medically and the threat of my job from management, I'm on the skids with my depression and anxiety being exacerbated. It's to the point where I'm feeling dispassionate toward the patients now, too, because they can make as many poor life decisions as they want and WE'RE supposed to care about THEM, but we're not even allowed to CARE and TAKE CARE of ourselves. I CANNOT afford to lose this job for SO many reasons. Given my documented mental illness, do I have any hope of approaching for ADA accommodation even though I haven't been at this job for a year yet? I have almost 4.5 months until my year mark for FMLA. My anxiety has spiked because there is SO much that can go wrong, that I absolutely CAN'T HELP (like being sent home if I'm visibly sick enough to concern the provider team), that would cause me to move closer toward being fired due to absence

Dear On Thin Ice,

Unfortunately, sometimes employers paint themselves in a corner with policies that do not allow for any wiggle room. They put attendance policies in place usually in response to  employees who abuse sick leave but at the same time they risk losing good employees who may have a high number of legitimate medical concerns over a short period of time.

You've had 5 callouts in 7.5 months, and from an employer's point of view, that is "skating on thin ice". You have not been there long enough to show a good attendance record to outweigh your recent attendance record. 
In your case, you were in a car accident, developed septicemia and have depression and anxiety. Intermittent FMLA helps employees with chronic illnesses. While federal FMLA only requires employers to grant leave to employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours during the preceding 12 months, your state and local laws may have lower eligibility thresholds. Next year you should be eligible for FMLA.

ADA means you can request reasonable accommodations for a disability, and protect against discrimination, but will not necessarily override an employer's attendance policy. However, it can provide for flexible use of vacation time, and it would be worth checking into. ADA is used and determined on a case-by-case basis.

Have a talk with your manager. Let her know you are aware of the seriousness of the situation, and tell her you are going to do your best to manage your health and meet your work responsibilities. You are going to seek treatment for your anxiety and depression.  

Don't make it a "you against them" situation. Make no mention of your feelings about management caring or not caring. Your manager did not write the policy, she's just administering it. She can help you, though, if she chooses to.

You only have to make it 4 more months and you have 2 occurrences left. If you feel yourself becoming more depressed, see if you can take scheduled time off (vacation)  that will not count against your sick time.

Good luck to you.

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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I read the first paragraph and simply put, came to the conclusion that this situation is untenable.  Were it me, I would start an earnest, not a casual, job hunt immediately.  Resign when you have a new job in place.  Nobody should be forced to work under those conditions.  

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