Sunday, December 28, 2014

Feeling Out of Place

It was during our first week in Rome last week that I was able to pinpoint what it is about living in Utah that makes me uncomfortable: I feel out of place. It's not all the time, and it's generally overwhelming, but that's how I tend to feel; sometimes I'm just more aware of it than other times.

There are so many assumptions that the people here make about others' religious beliefs; comments are made - including one made one of my schools - in reference to an LDS practice that I don't understand, for example, at a staff meeting one colleague likened something to testimony meetings - I don't know what that is. Another colleague joked about "telling his [someone else's] bishop." I've heard of testimony meetings, and I understand that LDS bishops are different that or bishops of other religious denominations, but it's these types of assumptions that everyone understands the intricacies of Mormonism, because of the assumptions that everyone is part of one particular group, that make me continually feel like an outsider.

I realized last week that I feel more at home here in Rome than I do in Salt Lake. This was the first time I was able to verbalize, at least internally, the cause of my discomfort, and I'm beginning to have some (very small) inkling what it's like to be in a (sexual, religious, social, gendered, racial, etc.) minority. Unacknowledged assumptions are made and it's frustrating, especially when nothing unkind is meant.

Now, that said, I realize I'm still part of the majority. I'm a white middle class heterosexual married woman who belongs to the world's largest religious sect (or one of the very top sects) in the largest religious denomination so in that case I have little to complain about. I just realized how much more comfortable it is to be part of the majority, or of a more equally distributed minority. There's nothing to do about it; we won't be leaving Salt Lake or even Utah anytime soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Requiring a Doctor's Note for Illness

This evening I read this article about a Canadian doctor who "wrote a fantastic response to employers who require doctor's notes for sick days." In essence, this doctor argues that by requiring employees to visit the doctor to acquire a medical note validating the employee's illness, an "unnecessary burden is placed on the healthcare system and exposes seriously ill patients...to viruses that could cause detrimental consequences to their [the patients'] health." The doctor goes on to say that if this practice continues, the company that requires this action will be billed directly by the doctor's office.

For about three months, I worked as a preschool teacher in an eastern Pennsylvania daycare that required all employees who took a sick day to bring in a doctor's note, otherwise we were in breach of contract and would face consequences, the specifics of which I no longer remember. Yes, we had to sign a contract upon being hired. The contract noted that, among other things, if we broke our contract (by leaving before three months, or by not bringing in a doctor's note after calling out sick, etc.) we had to pay the daycare $500. After the three months were up, one would sign another contract, the length or specifics of which I remain ignorant; after those three months, I worked there for a little while longer before teaching for two semesters at Lehigh Carbon Community College (which I liked a lot better and paid a lot more).

Bringing in a doctor's note when sick seems ludicrous, considering that much of the time, one's sickness does not require a visit to the doctor. Most of the time, for things like the flu, one might be sick enough to legitimately warrant time off from work, but going to a doctor won't solve anything. (Furthermore, I hadn't health insurance at the time, so there was the added bonus of paying even more out of pocket.)

As a side note: This was the same place that insisted I bring in a copy of my high school diploma, which, you know, who keeps theirs? I might have mine somewhere at my parents', but in the meantime I had obtained both a two-year and four-year degree; I could certainly show them the diploma from my undergraduate institution, which was still somewhat recent. "We need to see your high school diploma!" "Well, I have no idea where it is. I can show you my college diploma, though." "We need your high school diploma." And back and forth a bit until I said, if I graduated from college with a Bachelor's degree, I probably have a high school diploma, wouldn't you agree? "...Oh, yeah."

I worked at this daycare beginning in the fall, and into December, when it's not unreasonable for snow to fall. One morning, I set out in really dangerous, icy, snowy conditions. I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, and lived there for more then 20 years, so I'm not afraid of driving in snow, but the I-78 was all backed up, the road was slippery, it really was dangerous, and I simply didn't feel safe. I turned around and came home, called work, and told them I wasn't coming in, "Well, you know that might cause problems." "Hey, that's okay, do what needs to be done. I don't feel safe driving in that." Nothing ever did happen, possibly because the contract had already been fulfilled, but at this point I don't remember.

Daycare workers are absolutely underpaid; I was earning between $8 and $9 an hour because I had a four-year degree; this was higher than most of the other employees. It's physically demanding work, and between that and the low pay there tends to be a lot of turnover, so I understand the lengths to which this daycare and other employers might have felt it necessary to go to in order to retain staff, but requiring a doctor's note seems unwarranted, and does not exactly fill employees with the sense of being trusted or valued. It's a lousy cycle.