Medical Problems with no FMLA

My mother is working part time for benefits until she retires. She has hated this job for many valid reasons. They have reprimanded employees hatefully in front of customers and refused employees time off for medical reasons.

She had cataract surgery on one eye and was required to work that next day. She did not complain. She made the managers aware at the time of scheduling the first surgery that she would need to have the other eye done in two weeks. They are refusing to give her the time off even though she is asking for 1 day and the next morning only.

She is a few hours shy of being qualified for FMLA. She is scared to go to HR about this because of retaliation. The Bank has a non-retaliation policy, but she doesn’t find comfort in this because she is not sure how she could prove something like what she expects if she complains. This branch is known for its high turnover by other branches. She has great attendance, has come in to help on her days off, and has stayed over when they needed her. She fears if she loses this job, she will not be able to find another at her age.

This is where I like to play the game, “What is the worst that can happen.” I find this is fun to play with myself when I’m nervous about something. Like, for instance, ordering cheese at the deli. Granted, you all say, that is easy to do. Well, you try doing it in a language your barely speak. Add into the mix that you will be doing it in bad High German, when the person behind the counter speaks Swiss German. And you can’t really take Swiss German lessons because it’s not really taught anywhere. But, I have to say, “the worst thing that could happen to me is that I’ll get the wrong cheese.” And since all cheese is good cheese, it’s not that bad.

But enough about me. The worst thing that can happen to your mother if she goes to HR: She can be fired, which is against policy. (And just a reminder, I am not a lawyer, but since she’s not eligible for FMLA, they don’t have to grant her time off for medical reasons, but the courts generally consider company policies as binding, so blah, blah, blah a competent HR person would not allow her to be fired.) But, now we ask the next question: What is the worst that can happen if she doesn’t go to HR?

Well, then, she can be fired for skipping work because they didn’t approve a day off. Either way, the worst thing that can happen is the same thing. Since it’s a lose-lose situation, you have to ask, “what is the best thing that can happen?”

Well, the best thing that can happen if she doesn’t go to HR, is that her manager will just yell at her for taking the day off, unapproved. But, the best thing that can happen if she goes to HR is that the time off will be approved and there will be a crack down on nonsense by her management.

The latter is unlikely, by the way. If it’s gotten this bad, it’s not going to change easily. But, my point is, I think she should try. Don’t be accusatory. Just ask, “I need to take the day off for surgery. This surgery will help me to do my job better because I’ll be able to actually see. What do I need to do to get this done?”

By asking for help this way, rather than “My stupid manager won’t let me have a day off, even though it’s for surgery!” you get HR on your side, instead of in defensive mode. If she shows willingness to re-schedule her surgery, that might help as well.

I normally advise trying to work out problems without involving HR, but sometimes we can actually be helpful. (Really!)

I also suggest she ask her manager for a solution as well. Perhaps she’s unknowingly scheduled her surgery on a day that 14 other people are going to be out of the office and the manager is to harried to explain that. Perhaps the manager is so used to dealing with liars that saying no is just a knee-jerk reaction. Try to not be adversarial and see if it helps. Really. After all, what is the worst that can happen?

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6 thoughts on “Medical Problems with no FMLA

  1. I do the exact same thing with the "Worst Case Scenario" game. Sometimes its to come up with a reasonable outcome, but sometimes its "Okay. So, I have a meeting tomorrow and I'm nervous. Worst case scenario is that I trip on the way in, my skirt rips and I have to give the presentation while bleeding and I get so nervous I puke. Then I get fired and have to live on the streets." Since THAT is very unlikely to happen, any other consequence seems to pale in comparison, and I feel better.

  2. She can also ask for an ADA accommodation. There is no length of service requirement to ask for this type of thing and one day off should be considered reasonable.

  3. "She is a few hours shy of being qualified for FMLA."

    How close? Could she postpone the surgery until she qualifies?

  4. How about gaming the sick leave policy. Many places allow you a few days of "illness" without proving it via a doctor's note. Just call in sick the day of the surgery.

    No opportunity to transfer?

    Regarding waiting on the operation – I had a family member recently have similar surgery. Quite a wait to schedule the operation (six months)and life is unpleasant with one eye correct and the other eye "off."

  5. you American hating socialist, how dare you want health care for you ailing mother, that is so anti-capitalism.

  6. I agree, game the system. Wait, reschedule the surgery, and call in sick.
    And if they do fire you, in this economic climate? Call a reporter. Stand outside with a picket sign. Make a fuss about looking for another job. Right now people kind of hate banks and folks would eat up this bad publicity. Heck, make a big enough fuss, and mention that healthy banks allow reasonable accomodations–it's brown trousers time for the administration.

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