Patience: Work Shouldn’t Come Before Health


By Alisa Patience

Every day, students arrive at school coughing and pale, obviously sick, yet they show up anyway, usually due to the fear of falling behind or losing class participation points. Most of us work in addition to going to school, and of course, we all hate that one coworker who calls in sick for work 10 minutes before their shift starts, leaving everyone else to work harder or forcing someone to come in even though it was their day off. For those of us who don’t just work, I think it’s possible that because we go to school every day, sick or not, we no longer see being sick as a legitimate excuse for missing work.

This idea that we can’t miss class, work, etc., no matter how sick we may be was taught to us by bosses, parents and school administrators. The attendance policies that dock points, as well as the lecturing on the importance of teamwork and responsibility, have pushed us to believe we can’t skip out on our obligations. As important as class and work are, these things shouldn’t come before someone’s mental or physical health.

Maybe this is just my boss, but he doesn’t believe anyone who calls in sick from work is actually sick. In fact, there’s a new rule that if you’re sick, you need to provide a doctor’s note and hand-deliver it to the manager so he has physical proof. I personally have never had this problem, but if I’m sick on the weekends I work, I’m probably not going to be able to get a note from a doctor.

Coworkers have come into work with the common cold, the flu, strep throat and couldn’t speak to customers due to voice loss and were not sent home. I work at Panda Express. As a result, whenever someone calls in sick for work, the response automatically becomes, “We’ve all come to work even though we were sick,” and “Being sick isn’t an excuse because I was literally throwing up and still came to work.” That is messed up, and we need to start changing this mindset. Everyone, bosses and professors included, need to be more understanding of people’s needs. If someone is sick, why would you want them around to spread their illness, especially in an environment that serves food? You should want your employees and coworkers to be healthy to work efficiently. If you worked through the flu or pneumonia, good for you, I guess, but you shouldn’t have done that because you probably got someone else sick or worsened your sickness.

It’s true that some students and workers try to get out of work just to have an impromptu day off and will say anything to make that happen. But if they made the effort to get someone to cover for them, emailed or called ahead of time, don’t fire them, hate them or say, “Well you have to come in any way.” A student can’t control when or how often they’ll be sick, so it’s absurd to have an attendance policy that lowers someone’s grade if they have the flu or something severe and are out of class for a week. If an employee is too sick to get out of bed, how are they supposed to get in the car and drive to the doctor just to give you a note? It’s unreasonable.

At this point, we’re not kids. We need the money, and we need to pass our classes. Few of us take days off from work and school for kicks and giggles. In reality, forcing people to come to school or work sick is not worth punishing others who are at risk.

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