Ill and Quit

Question:

I was off work for a non-work related surgery that was supposed to be a one-day outpatient surgery. There were some complications that caused me to be off work for more than just the one day and I ended up off work for a few days, then returning to work on 1/2 day for a while and even put into physical therapy. The doctor used his “Certificate to Return to Work/School” that had his name, address, phone number information and the general information of me as patient, the dates under his care and his remarks (orders) for what dates and his signature.

My work had accepted this note for the first two times (dates off work had to be extended due to complications). The third time, they demanded that he fill out “their” form which stated that I must have a physical exam, have this form filled out by the doctor to my return to work status, release for duty and limitations, next scheduled appointment, if being released under modified duty, if so, what limitations, medications prescribed and to indicate any other restrictions. They told me in an email and in person that if I didn’t have this form filled out, I could not return to work at all in any form. I faxed it to the doctor office and they filled it out, I picked it up at the hospital office and turned it in to my supervisor.

In the meantime, my supervisors had become very demanding and mean toward me and I felt like they were trying to force me out of my job. It was getting very uncomfortable when I was at work due to being watched over like a hawk and reminded of my limitations, which I knew, and even after me about anything and everything they could find or think of to get after me for and warn me on, making me feel incompetent to do my job. It became very upsetting to me of how I was being treated and I became upset and cried one day at my desk but got up and went into the restroom.

I called HR and said that I felt like they were singling me out on numerous things and I even felt harassed. She discussed with them my feelings and then called me to her office. She handed me a folder and in it was a print off of my medication. She asked if I had ever went on Webmd and looked up medications and what side effects they can have. I said yes but the doctor had discussed it with me as well as the pharmacist and I was not taking the medication while working or driving (doctors orders) and that it was a “as needed” pain medication and I only took it while I was at home and if I was in pain. She proceeded to tell me that maybe my medication was making me emotional from what my supervisor had told her of my crying, and that maybe I should discuss it with my doctor. I told her the crying was from the treatment my supervisor gave me and how uncomfortable I felt about it and I felt targeted. I once again became upset and started to cry. She then gave me a sheet about Employee support services that I could call and a counselor would talk with me about my issues of my illness or anything else that was bothering me. She also informed me that as long as I was under doctor’s care and not released 100%, I was not allowed to drive on company time to see my customers. (I am in sales, which requires me to visit my customers in person). Did she have the right to go on and print off my medication that I was not taking during work hours? Then the part of them trying to force me out of my job really became apparent when I took a second pay cut in less than 4 weeks. The first one was a 5% straight across company wide due to the economy. The second one was me and one other employee (but they were different and we were not allowed to discuss with each other) and they cut my commission from 15% on all sales to a tiered commission that would make it impossible to make anything more than 6% due to raising my goals thousands of dollar in a month. And also the fact they were restricting me from calling on my customers to make my goal to make my goals to make my commissions. The doctor did not say in my restrictions that I could not work – because I was not taking the medication while working.

They had also made me set them up as delegates on my email account as well as my voice mail and was monitoring everything and then gave me a verbal warning for gossiping when another employee asked what the issue was with a client and his ad. There are too numerous other issues that have taken place in a short time but feel they were trying to force me out of my position and also violated my medical privacy. I have voluntarily quit my job due to the stress of the job. It was making me throw up daily, and my blood pressure high which I have never had issues with before, not sleeping at night afraid of what was around the corner next with them. When I got upset at work, I started feeling like my chest was really tight and hard to breath, like an anxiety attack. They are fighting my unemployment but I feel they have done wrong and wonder if I have any grounds to see an attorney or win my unemployment.

Signed,

Feeling Violated


Answer:

DearĀ Feeling Violated:

Illness and restrictions imposed on you escalated to emotional upset, and all this resulted in you quitting your job. Possibly your employer and you might have handled this in a less stressful way, but second-guessing that from here won’t help you. Now you need to get well, and if you are able, to resume employment elsewhere. Replaying it all while sitting at home wondering if you have been mistreated will not heal you.

Can you get unemployment? Also is your employer responsible for continued medical bills? Usually one does not qualify for unemployment compensation if she/he quits rather than is laid off or fired. However, you might have a case for unemployment in light of your account of how your illness was handled and then the restrictions placed on you. I think that is not likely, but we do not give legal advice. You had best speak to a labor attorney. Check your phone book for one that does not charge for a short first consultation. You signed your email as feeling violated. Would it be best if you can look on this sorry chain of events as something to learn from rather than to obsess that you are a victim? Career paths are not free from detours and roadblocks. Illness and bad economic times do come and make work that already is challenging more difficult. You alone can know if and when you can once again cope with the stresses of job hunting and making a new job work for you. But look around you and I predict that you will see others that have been knocked down. Some have stayed down; others have gotten back up and found the courage and strength to adjust to what life has sent their way. I hope that you can be one of those who get back up and have once again found the courage to work. Please keep us posted. Work is hard, and my wish for you is to hear not too far from now that you understand what I mean when I sign off with: working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden