Saturday, November 03, 2012

BUS STORY # 313 (Office Politics)

the office by busboy4
the office, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

We both get off at UNM, beauty before age. About 20 yards in, she turns back to me and asks me if I’m going to catch the 5 or 11. I tell her I am. She tells me she’s seen me on the bus a few times before, and she drops back so we can walk side by side and talk. I don’t remember seeing her before, but I keep that to myself.

Turns out she does clerical work in a state office in my area. She’s been there for three years, and was happy to be there until she got sick and was out for two months on FMLA.

She doesn’t tell me anything more about her illness other than it was progressive, and that she tried to keep working until she was physically unable.

After she returned, everything was different.

Most of her projects had been given to others, and she was told she would not be getting them back. The problem was that the folks she’d been working with for the past three years kept calling her and asking for her help. When she explained the project assignments had been switched, they told her they weren’t getting the support they needed from the new liaisons.

The other liaisons, her co-workers, knew about the calls and resented her for getting them. (“Like it’s my fault!”) Her manager also began scrutinizing her work like he had never done before. This was after he had asked her to take on some additional responsibilities -- without an increase in pay. She had taken them on. (“I like learning new things, and I’m a fast learner.”)

Two veterans had warned her about taking on the extra responsibilities. They told her any perception that she was trying to advance herself or her career would invite sabotage. They advised her to find her niche, keep a low profile, do a “mediocre” job, and nobody would feel threatened. She’d be fine.

She is not fine.

She knows she needs to start looking for another job, but she hates leaving this one because her son’s school is so close (They take the bus in together; she walks over to pick him up after work and they bus home together.); good jobs are hard to come by; the state benefits are good; it was a great job before she got sick...

I ask about her son. He’s five. And he’s not with her this week because he’s with his father.

She goes on to explain how her son getting sick cost her a job with one of the large for-profit insurance companies. He was a few months old when he developed RSV. (I googled RSV when I got home. You can read about it here.)

In the hospital, she learned she would be taking him home when he was stable, and would have to recognize when he needed nebulizer treatments -- and how to give them.

She applied for FMLA and got it.

Getting him over the problem took longer than expected, and she felt pressure from her employer to return to work. She told them sorry, but her child came first.

Shortly after returning to work, her son got salmonella “from the day care” where she had placed him on work days. She applied once again for FMLA. This time she was turned down because, she says they told her, “it isn’t life-threatening.”

The poor thing was going almost continuously from both ends, she explained. She had no help. She is not from here, and her only family was her 20-year-old sister who was definitely not mature enough to take on child care, never mind a sick child. Her in-laws both worked. No mention of dad.

Apparently, she got an ultimatum, and chose to stay home with her child. And that was that.

I’m in the process of clarifying some details when the 5 pulls up.

“There’s my bus,” she tells me. She adds she’d be riding tomorrow, and maybe she’ll see me then.

It’s been a while, now, and I haven’t seen her since. Maybe she found a new job.


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