Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Working while sick

 From the top of my esophagus to the bottom of my ribs, my entire body aches. This dry cough and sore throat have wracked my body now for over a month, causing my head to ache,  my muscles to tire and my head to go all swimmy every time I cough.  Recovering from COVID sucks.

This cough isn't unusual for me, however.  It is a cough that I have lived with every winter as the air gets chillier and the temperatures head into the 30s (that's -1 to anybody who isn't in America). Seven years ago, coming home from New Jersey, I developed pneumonia that required a fun regiment of medicines and a week of bedrest. Ever since then, I have spent every winter racking my lungs with harsh coughs that hurts everything and makes me tired and weak. My worst month is January, but the coughs will continue through to March. I have developed a taste for Fisherman's Friend cough drops- pure menthol that soothes the beast that is my lungs.

And yet, here I am, still sitting at my desk at school teaching. I can't take the time off that I would need in order to make myself better because I have only 11 school days in the year that I can take off as sick days and ten COVID days paid for by the state. I've taken 6 COVID days and was docked pay because the government only covers so much per day, and apparently I make more than that.

 When I do take sick days,  I take them for physical illness as well as mental illness. If I was to stay home during the entirety of my coughing days, I would lose all of my sick days and then some. And that then some is the problem. Any days that I take beyond those 11 days I have to pay for out of my own salary to help cover the costs of my substitute teacher. I get "docked" those days essentially.  So, instead of staying home and fully recovering and making myself better by being home, I come to school, and I sit at my desk, and I teach, and I cough... and I cough.... and I cough. 

I'm fortunate to be in an industry that allows me paid days off. If I was in the service industry or if I was perhaps a retail worker, I wouldn't have the option of taking a day off and still getting compensated for that, and living in California - probably one of the most expensive States- means that every penny is important and accounted for.  If I worked in a job that didn't afford me the sick days, I would not be able to afford life. I would have to think of something that I could let go of in order to take the day off, or I would have to work sick.

 A quick Google search for "Sickness and productivity" shows many results that talk about the affect of working while sick, and most of them say that you are definitely not going to be at 100% when you are working. There are also results about how to tell your boss that you're sick, and what to do if your boss refuses to let you stay home from work, which is a sad state of affairs. Businesses that care more for capital rather than people have become the standard.  

Unless the system changes and we can take care of ourselves rather than sacrifice ourselves to the mighty god that we call Commerce, we will continue to work while we are sick and continue to spread diseases.

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