Is it fair to force employees to go to work even if they are unable to?
With the ice storm that happened in December 2013, companies were still telling / forcing people to come in to work.
(Note: What I am about to highlight is at the end of it all, a really a minor, trivial point in the grand scheme of working but it is a simple example of things I think employees don’t pay attention to when they’re working for a company.)
Frankly, if you could make it in to work via public transportation, you weren’t out of electricity and are otherwise fine except for having to deal with icy roads and a sidewalk, by all means GO IN TO WORK.
If however you are living on a street that has numerous trees that have fallen and taken down live (!!) power lines with them, and you are unable to make it in to work because the public transportation system is shut down in your area, DO NOT GO IN TO WORK.
- Live power lines = Not safe
- Icy roads = Not safe
- Public transportation not running = What do they want you to do? Take a cab?
Hearing this tweet about how The Asian Pear was unsure about having to even make it in to work, and my advice was pretty succinct:
Don’t go in if you legitimately can’t make it.
She writes back saying:
“I’m not a consultant. I have to show up or take a vacation day or a sick day (unless I am dead.)”
Okay maybe there’s a point there, but to me, it has nothing to do with my being a consultant.
I think this is the perfect example to hopefully help people think about who they are working for and what it means for them.
It irks me to read that companies think it is OK treat people like this, but maybe I am just too sensitive.
You tell me.
IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU’RE AN EMPLOYEE OR A CONSULTANT IN THIS CASE
Employee or consultant, this is about the fact that “the worst ice storm in history” doesn’t happen annually.
It’s a rare and unusual event, and that has to be taken into account as well, and if you work for a place that doesn’t, you might want to think twice about staying so steadfastly loyal to them.
And no, it’s not because “I’m a freelancing consultant” that I get to choose my own hours, because frankly it’s worse for me:
If I don’t go in to work, I don’t get paid.
End of story.
As an employee you can take a sick day or a vacation day and still get paid, but I wouldn’t have done either as an employee because neither is technically true — it’s circumstances beyond your control.
(On average, I am treated worse than an employee on projects, so please don’t think my job is cushy because I get to dictate when I go in to work and not.
It is not as easy, or cut and dry as you might imagine.)
Anyway, even with a loss of a payday (about $1000 / day) in mind, I wouldn’t have gone in to work considering the circumstances of what we experienced.
I guess I don’t really get this kind of loyalty to an organization where you’d seriously think about trying to make it in after something akin to a natural disaster.
Sure, she may have done the ethically responsible, employee thing to take a vacation day instead of a sick day instead of just not showing up, but I highly doubt anyone would have shown up to work alongside her.
WHAT IF THERE WEREN’T ANY VACATION DAYS TO USE?
But what if she had no vacation days? What could she have done? Taken a fake sick day? Taken a cab in?
It sounds ridiculous to me that a company would be OK with someone lying but not if it’s a legitimate reason that you can’t make it in.
WHO WOULD SHOW UP ANYWAY?
Apparently some people went in after all, but from my experience, many employees would just skive off.
I know this from having been in the middle of numerous snow storm / snow days while on contract, and while I could safely make it in (it wasn’t an ice storm, it was just snow), there were plenty of times where I made it into an office COMPLETELY EMPTY of employees, as in no one was there except the consultants who could make it in and didn’t want to lose their payday.
NO ONE WAS THERE.
There was however, this time I worked at one particular project, the managers were considerate enough to email out the night before:
Do not try and make it in tomorrow, the roads are far too snowy and icy, and we’d rather you all be safe at home with your family rather than trying to make it in.
Please stay at home and work from home if you can.
That was fair of them to say, and it’s saying that, that made me increase my dedication, respect and loyalty to them and the project.
They basically kiboshed a work day so that no one would feel obligated to come in, employee or not.
WOULD YOUR JOB BE WORTH YOUR LIFE?
People reading this may think: Gee it’s just a little ice and snow, calm down..!
But things happen, even if you think I’m exaggerating, it’s not really worth the increased risk considering what just happened to the city, coated in ice.
- Sheets of ice fall and can split your head open.
- Live wires can electrocute you (and they’re invisible as they’re buried underground).
- You can slip on those icy roads / sidewalks and get a concussion.
- Cars skid out of control all the time even while driving on normal roads & can hit you
- Buses can also skid out of control while turning and topple over
- Many stores were closed as people prudently stayed in & employers closed for the day (even before Christmas)
- The city and police issued a warning and said: DO NOT go out if you do not have to!
Sure it is all stuff that could happen on a regular wintry day, but it is compounded by so much more because of the ice storm.
So in the instance of a workplace telling you that you have to be in, no matter what without taking into account how unusually risky it might be for you to go out….
Why the hell would you care for an organization that clearly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you by emailing that it is mandatory you show up to work the next day, after having gone through what the city went through?
Just to keep your job?
It doesn’t sound like it’s worth it to me.
I’d rather tell them to take that job and put it where the sun don’t shine (after finding a new one of course).
Of course this policy of asking you to come in after an ice storm is not as bad as actually dying at your desk from a heart attack, or being overworked to death like the many horrific stories that crop up in Asia (China in particular), but even if you made it in to work and out safely this one time, accidents beyond your control happen and you could be that one unlucky person who ends up getting hurt, while your workplace issues a PR statement backpedaling quickly and saying:
“Oh.. she should have said something to us.
She shouldn’t have come in if it was that dangerous for her!
What a tragedy.”
Too little too late, right?
Guess I’m really not fit to be an employee if that’s the case because I’d want to be treated fairly like a human being.
Is that too much to ask for?