Hearing that more businesses within the service industry are being given the green light to reopen elates me but also gives me pause. I’m glad that more folks can get back to work but also concerned about the risk they are being put at. If you’ve worked in the retail or service industry in America then you know that calling in sick for work is frowned upon. I’ve work(ed) for three major retailers and while I rarely called in sick or missed shifts, I know firsthand what it feels like to get guilt-tripped into going in for a shift while sick. It’s scary how normal this is, I waited tables for a restaurant in Minneapolis whose policy was if you didn’t have a fever or diarrhea then you should be at work. This culture runs deep within the service industry and I think we can all agree that this is not acceptable any longer (nor was it ever).
Unfortunately, for those of us who grew up working service jobs, this mentality stuck with us. At my former corporate office job, we wouldn’t take sick days but would work from home instead. It’s not unusual for people to be in the office coughing and sniffling at work during flu season, even at my current workplace. It’s bizarre to me that staying home when you aren’t feeling well has to be so stressed, this is what we should have all been doing in the first place. Employers should be required to offer sick time to all employees from their first date of employment. It took me 3-years to start accruing PTO while working for JCPenney and I think I started at .89 hours. That means it would have taken me 16 weeks to accrue ONE paid day off. One. After 3-years, I could request a day off while working for a huge corporation. Funny thing is, I graduated college shortly thereafter having never taken a day off and they had to cut me a check for 2 hours of PTO when I left that job 😀 Now, the obvious argument is that if you want a better benefits package then you should get a better job. I think that all of the people who live by that mantra have figured out how much they depend on these ‘low-skill’ workers and I hope that their mindset has changed.
I am thankful that I have a good job now with better than average paid time off and an awesome boss who would never make me feel guilty for being gone. Even now though, over 10 years into my career, I still feel guilty about taking a sick day. I often check my email and voicemail even if I am at home sick even though there isn’t any pressure from my boss to do so.
As someone who is trying to be a more conscientious consumer, it’s past time to start holding companies accountable for how they treat their employees. Minimum wage workers are an integral part of the huge profits these corporations make each year & should be treated as such. If a company can’t afford to pay their employees reasonable benefits then they should cease to exist (looking at you JCPenney). I’ve been watching very closely what corporations have been doing to safeguard their employees well-being through all of this and there are some that I will definitely not be giving my hard earned cash to any longer. I think it’s the least I can do to support those who are expected to do so much for so little 🤍