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Bending Your Employees Until They Break

, , , , , , , , | Working | February 7, 2023

During the global health crisis, I worked in a small, family-owned warehouse. The warehouse manager was a gung-ho type who wouldn’t take excuses of any kind for not showing up for work.

Every year from March through July, we were in our busy season. Workers typically worked 6:00 to 4:45, though I worked 6:00 to 5:00.

In April 2021, I came down with the [contagious illness], and a bad case of it. I was completely bedridden, with coughs, fatigue, body aches, and a fever. I called off work, and everything seemed to be okay.

Two days later, however, I was called and asked if I was well enough to come in. I responded that I was not. The warehouse manager then stated that as soon as my quarantine was over — ten days after diagnosis, the following Monday from this call — I was required to come back in.

Monday rolled around, and I was still coughing, fatigued, and running a fever. As required, though, I dragged myself to work. Within an hour and a half of being there, the owner sent me home because I spent too much time coughing and wasn’t fast enough in picking orders due to fatigue.

The next day, the warehouse manager called me and directed me to come in at 5:30 every evening (after everyone was gone) and work on receiving the daily orders from our vendors. Once again, I dragged myself in, worked on what I needed to, went home, and passed out.

After that week was over, I was again expected to come in and work a normal shift. Because I had been pushing myself so hard, though, I wasn’t recovering well at all, and my cough had worsened.

On Tuesday, I couldn’t take it any longer; I went to the doctor. They took a chest x-ray and then sent me home. An hour later, I got a call from the doctor that I needed a CT scan, and I needed it TODAY. They managed to find an opening for one that day close to my home. It turned out that I didn’t have blood clots in my lung as they had suspected but just a very bad case of [illness]-induced pneumonia.

I was given strict orders by the doctor to not go to work until I had recovered. By the time all was said and done, I missed a month of work before I was healthy enough to return.

Seven months later, the warehouse manager came down with a light version of [illness]. He took the full two paid weeks off, stating that he didn’t want to push himself too hard. I still suffer from the “long” version of the illness — limited smell, reduced immune system, lower stamina — all because they pushed me hard to come in.

No, the irony and hypocrisy were not lost on me. I turned in my two-week notice a couple of months later.

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