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Many of you know through lightbulb's diaries, how absolutely abysmal the treatment of retail workers by retail corporations really is. Today, I'd like to explore retail corporation's sick day policy, specifically at Wal-mart, how it impacts not only the workers' health, but the communities they serve.

Dawn, my first work friend and Customer Service Supervisor has worked for Wal-mart for over 10 years. She is hands down, the best CSS/CSM(customer service manager) our store has at the moment. She solves problems well, stays on top of long lines, takes care of the cashiers and the customers with professionalism and dignity. Two days ago, after I clocked in and reported to the podium for my assigned register, Dawn's face was flushed, her eyes bloodshot and her hands were shaking. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, "I am sick, I have a hundred and two temperature, I am throwing up and I CAN'T go home."  Immediately, I understood exactly what she was saying, she had no more call in days available to her, and had to either come to work or be pulled back into the AD(manager's) office, told she had used up all her call in days, sent home forced to write an essay(called a Decision Day-or D-day) on this day off, bring it back to the managers, where they would decide if the essay met some unknown standard, either fire her or keep her.  Dawn instead chose to do a tardy, in which she would go home after putting in four hours of her shift. Three tardies make and absence, so a tardy is much more doable than absence for a lot of poeple. A lot of our really sick workers will work four hours and then tell management they are heading home to avoid having an absence count against them.

So, what is the absence policy Wal-mart, and to be fair, other retailers have? It's a complicated system of Rolling sick days in a six month period. For example, if I call in sick today, June 19th, this sick day counts against me. I will, until December 19th,  have this one absence count against me. Then this absence will "drop off" and I will have an additional day I can call in to play with. I am allowed three call-ins in a rolling six month period. Currently, I am not able to call in until August 19th, when I will drop down to two again another date will fall off come September. It's fine I don't forsee any health problems in the near future, but last night my elderly parent fell out of bed, and if it had been more serious, and if I hadn't structured my days off so I do get two days off in a row, I might now be telling a manager where they can put the D-Day essay they wanted me to write.

When you explain this to workers with more sane sick day policies they say, well I only get so many sick days a calendar year, at least yours drops off. But, here's the thing, I have worked at other companies and corporations where I was only alloted five or sometimes three sick days a year. I also had personal days, and vacation days. And, if I had truly used up all my sick days, my bosses would rather me stay home sick than infect the employees and clients/customers. I might not have gotten paid, I might even had been asked if I needed to take a leave, but I wouldn't have gotten fired.  

The result is that the idea of a D-Day and writing an essay on why Wal-mart should keep you is not worth the hassle to a lot of our workers. I  told managers I won't write an essay, they can just fire me on the spot. We have people who can't call in sick until December 17th of this year. This policy is even responsible for one CSM having a heart attack on the floor during the dinner rush hour because she didn't want to call in sick even though she had been having chest pains all day.  Also add in  fact the Wal-mart's insurance is pretty much junk insurance(I chose the middle of the road option and STILL have a $5,000 deductible) most of us, even those of us with health insurance rarely if ever go get check-ups, or have our little issues checked out by the doctors. Add in the fact that Wal-mart's scheduling most of us work until midnight and turn right around and head back in for a 6:30 am shift. We are tired, always on the edge of being sick, if not outright sick and stressed from  being overworked.

So, that's our call in policy and how it drags workers in who are sick and should be in home in bed resting instead of stocking juicy fruit next to the registers and listening to a manager yell because the ATM machine is out again.

Here's where it impacts the community. We work with the general public and see a broad cross-section of people in our store, including the elderly, the chronically ill, and children. Imagine for one moment something like anti-biotic resistant whooping cough makes a comeback in our area(one of our cashiers just got diagnosed with whooping cough). Now imagine you or your elderly mother who has a compromised immune system is shopping and ringing out her items at the register of a sick cashier. The items your mother is buying has been touched by the sick cashier not to mention the debit reader pen that the cashier disentangled from the last customer or cash if your mom uses that.  Now as a good customer maybe your mom might have said, "you should be in bed" which is appreciated, cashiers don't receive enough kindnesses, but the sad reality is that cashier can't be in bed, She didn't call in, because Wal-mart would rather have sick workers in, rather than do what is right and protect both their workers and the community they say they care about. So, if you want to help, please don't shop at Wal-mart and call or email them and let them know that you refuse to shop there until their workers are healthy.

Originally posted to rowanleigh on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 06:13 PM PDT.

Also republished by Retail and Workplace Pragmatists - Members and Editors.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tired (23+ / 0-)

    and crabby, and hate my job and really hate the people who tell me, "well in this area, you are lucky you have any job at all."

    Just frustrated with Wal-mart lately.

  •  I am going to show this diary (18+ / 0-)

    to someone I know who shops at Wal-Mart because of the low prices. And she's not rich and pinching pennies, but just cannot justify in her mind paying more elsewhere.

    I know she will think twice when she hears about this sick-day policy, which is clearly abusive and definitely not in the best interests of the store's customers.

    "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

    by nomandates on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 06:33:34 PM PDT

  •  Besides the obvious public health problem ... (19+ / 0-)

    to customers, there's the "getting the whole staff" sick problem.

    Plus, the "doing a shitty job" problem because workers are trying to function when they're sub-par. Mistakes get made, customers get pissed off, etc.

    And that's without the whole problem of not treating employees with any dignity.

    I've never understood the pressure to get retail workers in particular to come in when they're sick. As a customer, I'd avoid a place that does that like ... well, the plague.

    •  see, (14+ / 0-)

      one, Wal-mart will fire me on the spot if I tell customers about this sick day policy during my work day. Happy, happy joy joy. One of our CSMs got "coached"-another diary in and of itself-for telling a customer that no, he can't open more lines because Wal-mart chronically shortstaffs the store to keep labor costs down.  

      I was told by management to keep my opinions to myself regarding the fundraiser Wal-mart does for CMN-and how Wal-mart doesn't donate the money, customers and workers do it, not to mention how I feel about big charities in general.

      But here's the thing, I will get the sympathy clucks and how terrible Wal-mart is to make me work sick ,BUT they will come in tomorrow or next Friday to buy their groceries.

      And, we have a great locally owned hardware, grocery,  pharamacy and fleet supply store here so it isn't about choices.

    •  I know (8+ / 0-)

      some people take it as a badge of honor if they work sick. I just think you are being rude to your colleagues.

      I had a supervisory position once, if they were sick, they went home. I don't mean my cold is almost over, I just have this post-nasal drip now sick, I mean like Dawn my CSM's sick. They just went home and I would say, look I can always find extra hours for you if you are worried about losing time, I also want to tell you don't disrespect your colleagues and our clients that way again.

    •  Here's the deal. Until other employers step up to (10+ / 0-)

      the bat, you're not going to get Wal Mart to start. As the largest employer in the U.S., they might follow, but they have already shown that they will not lead.

      My wife has been a part time cashier at Wal Mart for eight years. (We have the 10% dicount card, so we shop there far more often than we otherwise would.) Her IPH is the highest in the store (over 1,200) and she has gotten perfect evaluations and maximun raises every year. She's at nearly $13.00/hr now, which means less than the starting at Costco, but actually not that far below her first job. And, yeah, the benefits suck and we wouldn't touch them with a 10' pole. But everything Wal Mart does says that they like part timers more than full timers. And there obviously is no, and never will be any, incentive to change as long as the 1% continues to rape the whole economy.

      So, in my mind, the question is "how do we create enough prosperity that even Wal Mart has no choice but to pass it on?" Because, short of that, it looks to me like things only get worse from here.

      There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

      by oldpotsmuggler on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 07:19:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  the pressure is a domino effect (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      We have a similar sick day policy which, in fact, went into effect this year, minus the essay.  Your immediate boss, on a personal level, would NOT want you to come in, but s/he is pressured from upper management to have as many bodies as possible to churn out whatever the production timeline has been set for that day.  I can't answer for Walmart, but at my employer, X number of cashiers are supposed to take in Y dollars.  If you have fewer than that optimal number of cashiers, you're not going to do that business because each cashier can only take in so much $.  More cashiers, more $.  Welcome to the state of retail in 2012.

      The other thing -- and I may have mentioned this in one of lightbulb's diaries -- is that Walmart, being the largest retailer, sets the pace.  If Walmart institutes as particular standard, nearly every big box retailer is going to follow suit because Walmart is their #1 competitor.

      Certe, toto, sentio nos in kansate non iam adesse.

      by HawkWife on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 06:41:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It is going to continue (19+ / 0-)

    until somebody has a business model that eats Wal-Mart's lunch, which doesn't treat workers (and customers, in this case) as disposable.

    Something that values efficient, long service employees who value their work over lots of tired, poorly trained employees who hate their jobs.

    I can afford to shop without regard to price for most everyday items, and I make a point to shop at places that are both local (so the money goes back into the community) and whose employees seem to be treated well  (harder to tell, but lack of the fatigue/stress/illness that I see in, say, a CVS is a good sign.  Sometimes I know people who work there, or have worked there...again more likely with a local company)

    I just wish more people would think this way.  Yes, some people absolutely need the very lowest price, and Wal-mart has done a pretty good job at killing competetors in many regions.   But if you DO have a choice, please pay attention to this diary, and Lighbulbs.

    It doesn't have to be this way.  I know retail companies that make good money for their owners who don't treat their employees worse than they treat, say, their delivery trucks.

  •  I also didn't mention (8+ / 0-)

    that as a full time employee I get paid sick time. But I have to jump through so many hoops to get paid sick time-doctor's note, call in two consecutive days, and other such onerous things, I NEVER try when I call in to actually take it as a paid day off.

  •  Just goes to show just how stupid Walmart is. (7+ / 0-)

    I don;t care much for Walmart but I do shop there from time to time don't have much choice as I just don't have a lot of money these days. I have notice that when the cashier is have a bad day they seem to make a lot of mistakes that favor me.  In any other store I would say something and paid for my stuff but with Walmart and all of there BS I say The hell with them!!!!!!!

  •  But people think there is no need for unions (11+ / 0-)

    Since owners aren't hiring Pinkerton to kill employees a union is just not needed. In Oklahoma we are so proud to have thousands of employees in low wage no benefit jobs. It's just awesome that we have such a low unemployment rate and are 49th in the nation by every measure imaginable.

  •  A wise manager will realize that someone that ill (5+ / 0-)

    would be better off home.  Because if the worker does something like pass out or throw up on a customer, Wal Mart is liable.  If it were a cold/flu thing, I'd be as conspicuous as possible with my coughing and phelgming.  

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 08:10:24 PM PDT

  •  You have been republished (8+ / 0-)

    Retail and workplace pragmatists, aka lightbulbs group :)

    Great diary! I used to work in a few Walmarts in my days as a vendor. The joke was all Walmart managers shared one brain cell and things only made sense if that store had custody of it that day.

    There was a shipping clerk, a very good one who got cancer and got fired because of her need to be absent for treatment. They fired her and probably felt all righteous about it until 5 am rolled around and they realized no one else knew how to do her job.

    The manager of the store is the same one who broke a pallet of olive oil in the backroom then tried to soak it up with 50 pinds of brown sugar.............thats right we were stuck to the floor for weeks. It does make a most excellent story for parties though :)

    Oh and from my personal knowedge Walmart is rarely cheaper I can buy most food items, at least, cheaper at the other large regional chains we have here. They have just spent considerable time brainwashing us to believe they will always have the best price, not so.

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 08:31:00 PM PDT

  •  I work at a Walmart, as well. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    By the way,
    it's now written
    like a regular name,
    no star or dash in the middle.

    And the seventies smiley face is gone,
    replaced with an asterisk,
    officially called a spark.

    I understand what the diary is saying,
    but let me play Walmart's advocate.

    Have you ever heard the phrase,
    "Certain people abusing the system
    ruin it for the rest of us."

    If I were a manager of anything,
    and desperately needed to serve thousands of customers,
    and a key worker called in sick,
    I'd want to go to his or her home,
    and verify the illness,
    if not legit,
    I would not only want to fire the worker,
    but I would wish I could take that goof-off to small claims court,
    and get back some of the money spent on drug testing,
    background check,
    and training.

    (Not that there is much formal training,
    but waiting for a worker to get up to speed,
    then losing that worker to goofing off....)

    those who call in when not really ill,
    they ruin it for those who are truly ill,
    as I see it.

    I agree with you,
    there must be a way
    to stand firm against those goofing off,
    without forcing truly ill workers to drag in and maybe collapse on the sales floor,
    but I simply do not know what that way is.

    Maybe if a company doctor
    certifies you ill,
    it would not count against you.


    About the insurance.

    I am full time,
    and I get Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arkansas,
    some kind of half price or lower prescription plan,
    Delta Dental,
    and vision care coverage.

    The Delta Dental is regular insurance,
    with many things actually paid for outright,
    and they ask for co-pay on the spot
    for whatever's not covered.

    The half price prescriptions are great.

    But the actual medical plan I'm on
    gets me a lower price for office visits,
    but pays nothing at all
    for the first $6,000.

    I have Walmart put $100 each payday
    into my Health Savings Account,
    and I use that for everything,
    and eyeglasses.

    That puts a strain on my budget,
    but please understand,
    last October,
    when my second wife,
    Tonia, made it clear she wanted to get married someday,
    we made that someday as soon as possible,
    so that Tonia could be on my medical,
    and vision care plan.

    Since then,
    we have used some of those hundreds of dollars
    getting her examined for some minor,
    but painful,

    I used money built up in my HSA
    to pay Tonia's old debt with the clinic,
    so they would examine her.

    I wrote a diary about it called,
    I Cried at the Doctor's Office.

    But we got the exam,
    we got the medicine.

    Tonia had four teeth broken off at the gum line.

    We got them pulled.

    Tonia needed new prescription glasses.

    She has them.

    I needed new frames
    for my prescription glasses,
    and got them on my lunch break.

    I must postpone my next colonoscopy,
    overdue by a year or so,
    until I can save up $1,500.

    But having Walmart insurance
    is way better than having none.

    By the way,
    one of the reasons I see Walmart's side of call-ins
    is that I'm very healthy,
    so I get to substitute
    as a cashier
    when regular cashiers call in.

    Likewise with unloading trucks,
    and pushing in the shopping carts.

    I pushed in carts for about two hours.

    I'm almost 57 years old,
    and it wears me down.

    Another thing about calling in sick:
    three days in a row counts as one occurrence,
    so, when my knee flared up,
    I was able to take three days off,
    two of them paid.

    I was not asked for a doctor's note.

    The first day of an illness,
    you can't use a paid sick day,
    but you can use vacation or personal day pay.

    By the way,
    if you call in on your last scheduled day before,
    or your next scheduled day after,
    any paid holiday,
    you do not get your holiday pay.

    I had a very sore knee
    last Christmas,
    and called in December 26th,
    and lost my Christmas holiday pay.

    I called in this past Tuesday after Memorial Day,
    and lost that holiday pay.

    This whole mess,
    by the way,
    could be solved by communism.

    Communism was meant to be a way
    to pay workers higher wages.

    The Soviet Union never did well,
    because the workers were never paid well.

    About customers shopping at Walmart,
    more than other stores:

    Here in Wichita, Walmart almost has a monopoly
    on general merchandise
    after 10 or 11 PM.

    The K-marts and Targets close at that time.

    My store has about 10,000 customers a day,
    pouring in the doors,
    like the water pouring over Niagara Falls.

    They wear me down,
    and they just keep coming.

    One last thing:

    If I ever get a decision day,
    since I get such a powerful reaction
    to much of what I write here at Daily Kos,
    I think I could write an essay
    that would make my Walmart bosses cry.

    I  hope it never comes to that.

    Thanks for reading.

  •  a few years ago there was a TV commercial and it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, Oh Mary Oh

    seems to me it was for walmart. As I remember it, the point of the ad was that They were so proud of how hard their employees were working during the Christmas rush, because, sick or not, they were there, working hard! It was for a cough&cold medicine I think, and I just remember the image of a really sick employee standing on a ladder, (I could just imagine them denying her workman's compensation when she fell off the ladder and broke an ankle because she had taken said cough&cold medicine while at work...) showing her solidarity with both the customers and the company by being at her post.

    It instantly made me think OMG! Not going near that department! and I think they realized how it looked too because the ad didn't run very long. But I didn't expect they would fix the actual problem or anything...

    Meanwhile, I think The People should sue Walmart for reimbursement of Medicaid bills which their employees  qualified for because Walmart et al do not pay a living wage.

  •  I work the night shift at a convenience store. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh, lineatus, RunawayRose

    When I get off in the morning, if there's something I need, my choices are the store where I work, Krogers, or Walmart. Not many choices where I work. Krogers is usually where I go if I need something, but if they don't carry it, I pretty much have to go to Walmart.

    There is no paid sick leave where I work, nor insurance. However, it's a small regional chain with no "D-Day"-like bullshit, and they're usually pretty reasonable about unpaid time when needed.

    Cogito, ergo Democrata.

    by Ahianne on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 06:38:07 AM PDT

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