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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am very frustrated and need your help. Please do not use my name, city or state. It could get my husband fired.

"Al" works for one of the largest electrical utilities in the country. He's a lineman and puts his life on the line every day. Al works hard, gets along well with co-workers and supervisors, and responds promptly every time he's called for an emergency. He has worked many holidays and missed a number of family celebrations.

So what's the problem? Al is verbally chastised and receives low evaluation scores because he uses his sick days when he's ill. With young children, we have the usual colds, flus and viruses. He got the flu twice last winter, and I thought the company was going to fire him. The supervisor demanded that Al get a doctor's note for the days he missed.

Abby, the unspoken rule is DO NOT USE SICK DAYS. His company touts safety and rewards employees for safety records but demands that they work even when sick. How safe can it be for a man shaking with chills and fever to be perched on a utility pole, 40 feet in the air?

The company hasn't singled Al out -- they treat all employees this way. In my opinion, forcing employees to work while sick is not in the best interests of the employees or the company. I cannot imagine why the company clings to this warped way of thinking.

How should we handle this without jeopardizing Al's job? -- LINEMAN'S WORRIED WIFE

DEAR WORRIED WIFE: Your husband has the right to use his sick days as long as the need is legitimate. If the company is strict about bringing a doctor's excuse after each illness, Al must accept it and not take it personally.

Unless Al is being singled out and treated differently than his peers, or the company is violating an established policy, there is nothing to be done except consider finding a job with a different company, or another line of work.

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to the letter from the gay man who finally came out after many years of marriage and several children.

Abby, I can relate to the man's wife. A few years ago, my husband came out at the age of 45, when our daughter was 9 years old. It was very traumatic, but I discovered a support group for us, the spouses.

Amity Pierce Buxton, Ph.D., wrote a book I found very helpful. It's titled "The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Spouses and Families." She also coordinates support groups, and counsels spouses and ex-spouses of bisexual, gay and lesbian mates.

There is also an online support network: Straight Spouse Network at It, too, is a lifesaver your readers should know about. -- SAN FRANCISCO SPOUSE

DEAR SPOUSE: Thank you for the information. I'm sure it will be of interest to the estimated 2 million straight spouses of bisexuals, gays and lesbians. Originally published in 1991, the book has now been expanded and revised.

Readers, if the book isn't available in your bookstore or the library, you can call the publisher, John Wiley & Sons Inc., at (800) 225-5945, for information on how to order a copy.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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