“Workers’ Voices” is a series on A Better Balance’s blog highlighting the firsthand experiences of workers from across the country. For some workers we are in touch with, they are covered by federal, state, or local workplace protections that make a world of difference in their ability to care for themselves and their loved ones. For others, their experiences highlight the glaring gaps that remain in our laws.
The below is a story from Arthur* (*name changed to protect anonymity), who called A Better Balance’s free work-family legal helpline and agreed to share his experience.
My name is Arthur* and I live and work in the state of Wisconsin. I have a family of four, and taking care of my family is my priority. I have been a dedicated employee at my company, where I work as a mechanic, for 13 years.
This year, I started feeling more ill than I ever had before, and eventually I learned that I had an infection which developed into sepsis, and I needed to stay in the hospital for nearly a week, plus two weeks of recovery time. When I was well enough to return to work, my employer informed me that my pay was going to be reduced by $100 per week for numerous weeks, as punishment for “missing too many hours.”
“Between the time off to care for my daughter and the time off to recover from my own illness, the number of days I missed was ‘too much’ according to my employer.”
Before I got sick, my daughter had also fallen ill from the coronavirus, and I had needed to take some time off work to care for her. I had never gotten paid for any of this time off, but between the time off to care for my daughter and the time off to recover from my own illness, the number of days I missed was “too much” according to my employer.
My employer’s business is a very small one, and therefore I was not covered by laws such as the federal Family & Medical Leave Act that would have legally protected my absences and guaranteed that I could not have my pay reduced as punishment for falling seriously ill or caring for my daughter when she was seriously ill. This very unfortunate reduction in pay came at a time when my family was already struggling financially and going through some other very serious hardships.
I believe that no one should have their pay cut as punishment for being sick or for taking care of a sick family member.