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Taking a Sick Day Could Mean Losing Jobs For Many, Including Two Women in Queens

Source: Michael Powell for the New York Times Legal Topics

For Celina Alvarez and Rocio Loyola, life is very difficult. Ms. Alvarez spends 72 hours a week in a restaurant basement in Queens, NY chopping fruits and vegetables and Ms. Loyola spends the same amount of time making juice drinks at her place of work.

Both women live in fear of losing their jobs if they need to take off for being ill, and their bosses make it incredibly difficult to feel otherwise. Every now and then, Ms. Loyola comes down with the flu and tries to work through the chills and weakness in her body. As she purges in the restaurant bathroom, she looks behind her to see her boss shaking his head, saying, “You go home, you’re fired.” As for Ms. Alvarez, a few months ago she began to experience pain in her chest and arms. On her one day off, she walked into a clinic where a doctor told her that her heart was in bad shape. She was then admitted to the hospital, and discharged a few days later. After walking 15 blocks to beg for her job back, she recalls her employer being disgusted, telling her that she was old and sick. He sent her back to the basement to chop fruit and vegetables where she stood working in two inches of gray water.

Like so many others, Ms. Alvarez had to take her job back to be able to pay for her bills and feed herself. Working conditions like this are completely unacceptable, and can often lead to workplace injuries and illnesses. Unfortunately, workers like Ms. Alvarez and Ms. Loyola find that they must “keep quiet” if they want to keep their jobs.

Luckily, there are people fighting for the rights of individuals just like these two women. Bill Lipton, deputy director of the Working Families Party, stated that, “Paid sick days should be on par with the minimum wage, the eight-hour day.” He is saying that provided sick days should become a law for every employer. There was even a petition that was signed by 100 small business owners urging lawmakers to pass sick-days legislation. However nothing has come of it, though some politicians are hopeful… Other organizations, like OSHA, might have something to say about working conditions such as these, but often times it’s up to the employee to get in contact with the organization to raise suspicion. And since most people prefer to keep quiet out of fear of losing their jobs, there is doubt that this will become a reality for them anytime soon.

Ms. Alvarez recently started a new job, where her pay is a little bit better, and her boss does not degrade her. When asked whether or not she has sick days with her new employer, she simply shrugs and says, “They haven’t said anything. I just pray to God each night I have good health.” What it boils down to is, good people deserve to be treated with respect at their place of work, and no one has the right to verbally abuse or degrade any other human being.

Ty Wilson is a workers’ compensation attorney in Georgia with offices in Savannah and Atlanta. Visit tywilsonlaw.com to read articles, watch videos and to order his free Georgia Workers’ Compensation Special Reports.

If you have questions today for a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer, give Ty a call at 1-888-689-5224.

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