Family Values @ Work

Marie – Paid Sick Days and Screenings Save Lives

Marie – Paid Sick Days and Screenings Save Lives

June 5, 2017

Marie Barboza works as a personal care attendant in New Bedford, Massachusetts, to support herself and her 13-year-old daughter. In all her years working in the medical field, and before that in factory jobs and grocery stores, Marie does not remember ever having paid sick days – until now.

“If you had the flu, you couldn’t just stay home,” Marie said, even if your illness might affect your client or co-workers or customers. “If you did stay out, you had to have a doctor’s note. Sometimes you weren’t up to going to a doctor, especially with a flu – you already knew it’s going to last 24 hours. If I could, I just went in.” Marie remembers co-workers who would drag themselves to work even though they were sick. “They’d say, no one is going to pay the bills for me but myself,” Marie explained. “You have to show up.”

Recently Marie got much more than the flu. She went to get checked out for what she thought might be pneumonia. The doctor ordered a CAT scan and found a malignant tumor. Marie needed surgery. Then they found fluid around her heart – more surgery was needed. She wound up in the hospital for several weeks.

On top of the stress of the illness, Marie had to worry about paying the rent. And then, while she was in the hospital, she remembered receiving a paper last year on earned sick time. At first, she wasn’t sure if it applied. When she called for information, someone said she would receive no pay if the person is in the hospital – but it turned out that referred to the client, not the personal care attendant. Marie called again. This time she learned she could get 40 hours’ pay.

“That really came in handy,” Marie said. Without that check she’d have had no money for the rent and other bills. “You don’t know ahead of time you’re going to get sick. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it can be really hard. But this was a paycheck. I’d earned it. You don’t get paid vacation, but at least you get paid sick time.”

Marie is grateful she has family who could loan her the money until she could pay it back. But without earned sick time, she’s not sure how she would have managed. “Thank God they have that now,” she said.

FACT: Workers with paid sick days are more likely to visit the doctor once a year and get key cancer screenings such as a mammogram or colonoscopy.

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