Question Of The Week: They Won’t Let Us Call Out!

At my facility we’re not allowed to call out! Lately there’s been a lot of call outs and even more aides quitting. So we work short all the time. A couple aides have hurt their backs too cause we’re short all the time. Anyway I got the “bug” last week and had a fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. I felt horrible. I couldn’t eat anything; I couldn’t keep anything down. I called work to let them know I would be out for my shift and they put me through to the DON. who told me to come in for work, to report to her prior to clocking in so she could assess whether I was too sick to work. If I didn’t follow this directive, I would be terminated. SO I went to work and the DON took my temp (101.2)- she gave me Tylenol and a couple spoonfuls of Pepto Bismol; she told me report for duty. If I didn’t feel any better in an hour to come back and see her.

Is this legal???

Your email tells me your employer is having a hard time with staffing. It appears that the place is going through a downward spiral of problems and management is part of that. When an aide shows up for work, sick with fever and infection, she exposes not only the residents, but her co workers as well.

It’s very likely more than a few will catch the illness. So, it spreads like a fire. As each aide comes down with the bug and misses work, management feels it has to do something to curb what it perceives to be an abuse of attendance policy. Management should be prepared for a staffing crunch knowing a virus is going around. But, this facility’s management is punishing the very people who are out in the battlefields where the germs are located. It’s old fashioned and autocratic.

Instead of being proactive, the DON is being REACTIVE and in a very negative manner. Her actions are telling her staff that she doesn’t trust their judgment on their own bodies health. She is also telling them she has no respect for them. A warm body on the schedule is all that matters, even if that body’s temp is 101.

The Legality of this:
If this is a policy, it must be written as such.

I called a lawyer friend and relayed this scenario and she gave me the following advice: Is the DON a doctor or a Nurse Practitioner?? If not, she is straying from her nurse practice laws. Nurses cannot diagnose illnesses, diseases, disorders and the like. Perhaps she is sending staff to a doctor who is legally licensed to perform a medical assessment. She would be smart to do this. She should NEVER give staff ANY medications without a doctors’ order. She is putting her license on the line by doing so. She knows this. And is counting that you don’t know this.

Legally this practice is not advised for management. They are risking a discrimination lawsuit if this “policy” doesn’t cover ALL employees of this facility- so, when the dietary aide or the cook or the maintenance man calls out, the DON/Management must apply this same requirement towards them. They too must come in, be assessed, and determined if they’re “healthy” enough to work or not. And this would mean doing so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even on holidays and weekends.

What To Do?
If you find yourself too ill to perform the duties of your job, you can and should call out. However, you should also make every attempt to get better or try to reduce your symptoms so you can work. In other words, do take Tylenol/Advil to get the fever down. Immodium will end just about every episode of diarrhea. After this, if you still feel too sick, call out. Make sure you follow the policy- most facilities require 2 or 4 hours notice.

Have your spouse or a friend make the call for you if you’re concerned with being harassed by the DON. Instruct your spouse/friend to take a message but to be firm: You will not be showing up for work. Make sure your reasons are given: Details- fever, vomiting, ect. and the actions you have taken to try to make it better. Then call your doctor and make an appointment. You’ll need to be assessed and diagnosed properly; and the MD will need to write you a note excusing you from work. Often, this note will include actual dates you are not recommended to work.

A doctors note will not protect your job.
We need to know this and not rely upon it. The note does give credibility to you though: You’re putting the effort into seeing the doctor to find out what is wrong and get better; you’re paying money to do in most cases; you want to show your employer you weren’t goofing off, ect.

You can still be terminated unless you’re a member of a union which has rules on this.

I would not wish to continue employment at a facility where this practice occurs. I would leave on my own free will and seek employment at another place with more enlightened management.

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