DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter this morning about "Al," the lineman who works for the utility company, I had to write.
My husband worked for Southern California Edison for 31 years. I worked for a school district. We both saw the way many people use their sick leave. My husband noticed that the younger workers felt the days were theirs to use whether they were sick or well, and they always used all the sick days each year for whatever they wanted.
Companies do not give sick-leave days for that purpose. You are supposed to be sick. Poor Al appears to be honest and needs to understand that he's paying the price for the dishonesty of other employees. It's a shame it has to be that way for those who have integrity. -- LAURA JEAN IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR LAURA JEAN: I agree. Conscientious employees should not have to pay the price for a few malingerers in the workplace. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: A visit to the doctor is not always feasible, and finding a new job may be difficult for Al the lineman. But there is something he and his co-workers can do to change the way the company treats its employees. They can join a union!
With a good union contract and a strong grievance procedure, the workers will be protected against bad health and safety practices, have job security and be treated with respect. -- MIRIAM PANGER LUDWIG, RETIRED UNION MEMBER
DEAR MIRIAM: You could be right. However, Al's wife said her husband works for one of the largest electrical utility companies in the country. It's safe to assume they are already unionized. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: You are probably going to get a lot of flak about your answer to "Lineman's Worried Wife" about his sick leave. There are laws protecting employees' sick-leave rights. You should have asked a professional for advice on the question.
The lineman and his wife should first check the employee handbook (if his company has one). It will state what is expected of an employee regarding doctors' excuses, and their rights under the law. The lineman's sick leave may also be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. In addition, most states have their own family- and medical-leave acts.
Abby, answers like "There is nothing to be done except consider finding a job with a different company" set the fair work standards back about 20 years. I hope the lineman hasn't given up his job based on your advice. -- LESLIE DUNAWAY, EMPLOYEE RELATIONS REP
DEAR LESLIE: I've indeed received a bale of mail regarding that letter and my reply. Thank you for sharing your expertise. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Many companies now require employees to bring notes from their doctor when taking sick days. If employees would not abuse sick days, the companies would not be so strict. -- LISA IN NEVADA
DEAR LISA: That's an astute observation. One reader related an experience he'd had with an employee who was repeatedly out sick, but always showed up with a printed and properly filled-out physician's certificate. One of the supervisors began wondering about the repeated absences and called the county medical association to locate the doctor whose name was printed on the certificate. Lo and behold -- there was no such doctor! The innovative young man had gone to a print shop and had forms created for his own use. Guess what happened next?