Author Topic: Taking time off work for medical reasons and a coworker complaining. Update 106!  (Read 50595 times)

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ebrochu

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Here's the background. It's going to be long, so thanks for reading!  :P

My coworker was off for 8 weeks due to "can't reference it cause she could look it up and find this and i'd be in trouble"  pain in her hands and legs. It's a "flaring" pain. You can be in pain from it all the time, but the flare ups are 100 times more painful. And hers seems to be linked to her emotions. Her boyfriend has a terminal disease, and while he's still mobile now, he's not going to be cured. So whenever he has a bad day, she gets upset, and her pain flares, and she needs to call in sick. But when it's not flaring, she can work.

I have absolutely NO issue with this. I am sorry that she is sick herself, and i'm incredibly sorry that her boyfriend is sick. I've always been happy to cover her shifts, and help out whenever she needs it. Except for a few instances, I've been the one to cover for her. And I was the only one who covered for her the 8 weeks she was off, as our only other worker who could do the work was off themselves due to illness. And there was NOONE else in our place of work who could do "our" job. The only way I was able to get ANY time off was to pull in other people from other "offices" so I could have rests. So while I did have "time off" it was very regimented, and I had to cancel my OWN appointments, dr visits, etc, to make sure the work was done each day. Otherwise, I literally would have been working for 8 weeks straight, 7 days a week.

When she came back from being off, I was eager to see her, because I genuinely missed her. I was tired, yes, but I was happy to have her back, and be working with her again. I have never given her ANY indication that I was negatively affected by her being off.

End Background

During that time, I discovered that I had an ovarian cyst. It was hurting me, but I soldiered through. (and it was growing, and becoming more painful).
 Our work is very physical, and it was getting more and more painful for me to work. To the point that I was on very strong pain meds just to get through the day. And it was affecting my work. Either being off the pain meds, and working through a pain haze, or being on the pain meds, and working through THAT haze. I was becoming really incapable to do my work to any positive degree. The product I was greating was poor, and not usable. It's obvious that I cannot work through the pain, or the meds.

After discussing it with my boss, she agreed that it would be best for me to go off work (onto a work supported disability program) until I was treated for the cyst. I've still been in pain even not working, and I'm incapable of bending over, picking up any object of weight, or sometimes even dressing myself properly) And it's also come to light that there may be something else in the cyst, and the word cancer has been used. But that hasn't been comfirmed yet. And if there's ever a day when i'm not in pain, i'm battling extreme nausea.

I have told my coworkers (all of them) this. I believe in being open with my life, and since my being off does affect them, they deserve to know. And my boss is keeping everyone informed with my progress, but I cannot control what she says / doesn't say.  And they've all been supporting and comforting.

Except this one woman. Who herself was off for 8 weeks, with her own illness.

She even has the other person at her disposal to take over for her. I did not. So, while they have had to pull in the same worker from another "office" to help out, this woman still has an "in office" helper who is trained in our job, and can work for her if she needs another day off.

This woman is now rather mad at me, for my being off with this cyst. She has told me that "every woman gets them, they just go away on their own, you don't need to have surgery"

But even so, I'm still in pain. It's growing, not going away. And given our work, if it was going to break, it would have. And I've been to a gyno, who, after examining me, reviewing my records and such, is talking surgery.

So, (finally) my questions are these: Is it rude of me to be off, even though it's not convenient for another coworker? It does affect her life at work. And she never knows when she is going to have a flare.

Would it be rude of me to say to her "it's alright for you to be off sick, but not me?" I feel rather upset with this whole situation. I'm not well, and she's mad at me because she can't be off whenever she wants / needs to be, in her eyes. Almost that my illness isn't as important as hers.

Finally, does anyone have any ideas as to what I can say to her when I do go back? I don't want to start a scene, but I deserve to defend myself if she attacks me. And she's the only one there that isn't ok with my being off.

If anyone has any questions, or needs clarification, I will, but this became a novel already! Thanks for any help!

« Last Edit: December 13, 2012, 11:10:40 PM by ebrochu »



SoCalVal

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Nope, not rude to be off due to medical reasons.  Inconvenient for the others?  Yes...but certainly not rude.

If your boss doesn't already know, I'd take this up with the boss to shut down any further complaints from her.  If your coworker continues to take it up with you, I wouldn't even bother discussing my condition, just tell her, "If you're so concerned, I suggest you take it up with boss or HR" then beandip her.  I wouldn't bring up her eight weeks off as it doesn't matter whether or not she had been off herself; you're still entitled to medical leave (and she sounds so special that it seems difficult to fathom she doesn't remember she was off eight weeks herself).

I'd been having to deal with many multiple staffing issues due to illness, and I work in a hospital where my dept is directly involved in patient care so there is no working short on a regular basis (a few minutes here or there they can handle).  Anyway, while the multiple simultaneous illnesses is inconvenient, I wouldn't dream of telling people they aren't entitled to time off due to illness (and that would just open up huge problems for my dept anyway if we tried that).



Secret

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 "Is it rude of me to be off, even though it's not convenient for another coworker? It does affect her life at work. And she never knows when she is going to have a flare."

This quote really bugs me.  Sometimes you have to put yourself first.  I have someone in my office who takes time off (probably more than required), the other person cancels their own apts, changes their own schedule around, makes alt arrangements at a tremendous inconvienience to herself.  I just want to say, "why are others illnesses more important than yours all the time?"  You've done your part in helping out other people now someone can help you in a pinch.

as for the rest, there are wiser minds than me on this board!

Firecat

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Ooooohhhh...I am furious on your behalf right now  >:( >:( >:(

Let me put it succinctly:

You are not being rude. You are ill, in pain, and not capable of working. You are using what sounds like the exact same work-supported program your coworker used, for a legitimate medical reason. Just as she did.

She is not your doctor, and not all cysts are the same.  Diagnosis and treatment are for you and your doctor to determine.

When you get back, if she does say anything, I think I'd suggest refusing to engage and reporting her behavior to your boss or HR, if that's a possibility. She's so far out of line that she couldn't see the line with the Hubble. But be specific and try to keep your emotions out of it, and without mentioning your covering for her cheerfully - your boss already knows that, I'm sure. And as infuriating as it is, that's not really the issue. The issue is that she is behaving inappropriately over your taking needed medical leave.

Or, if you must say something, perhaps a look of utter astonishment and something like: "Coworker, are you accusing me of exploiting our benefits? I can't believe you have such a poor opinion of me!" And let her sputter or dig herself in deeper...her choice.

Outdoor Girl

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You are not rude!  Take care of yourself, first and foremost.

And I agree with reporting this woman further up the chain if she continues to harp on you.

I would be very hardpressed not to say, 'I can't believe you, of all people, are giving me a hard time about this.  I will be off until I'm recovered from surgery.  Do not talk to me about this issue again.'  And anytime she says something to you, turn around and walk away.

And call me petty but when I came back to work, I sure wouldn't be jumping to help her out unless expressly told to do so by my boss.
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DottyG

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Quote
Ooooohhhh...I am furious on your behalf right now

This was my response to the story as well.


That Anime Chick

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Ooooohhhh...I am furious on your behalf right now  >:( >:( >:(

I'll join in as well. Having had to deal with various health issues over the years, I really hate it when someone starts making a fuss about something and thinking that they know better than you do with your own body.

That being said, if you are genuinely concerned that she will kick up a fuss, it might be a good idea to start a paper trail with your boss and HR so that if/when she does start in when you get back, they'll know she might do something. Or if she starts saying things while you're out, they can try to nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand.

And btw, not all cysts "go away". This is from personal experience as a teen.
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MrTango

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snip...(for brevity)
And I agree with reporting this woman further up the chain if she continues to harp on harass you.

I agree with your post, with one little edit.

O'Dell

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Nope, not rude to be off due to medical reasons.  Inconvenient for the others?  Yes...but certainly not rude.

If your boss doesn't already know, I'd take this up with the boss to shut down any further complaints from her.  If your coworker continues to take it up with you, I wouldn't even bother discussing my condition, just tell her, "If you're so concerned, I suggest you take it up with boss or HR" then beandip her.  I wouldn't bring up her eight weeks off as it doesn't matter whether or not she had been off herself; you're still entitled to medical leave (and she sounds so special that it seems difficult to fathom she doesn't remember she was off eight weeks herself).

This is what I would do as well. Especially the bolded but I wouldn't bother with beandip. You are entitled to be a bit curt in response to this sort of comment.
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Bales

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As far as being rude for taking care of your own health - heck no!  Please stop thinking that way.  Even without the background of you covering for her, the point is you are unable to work due to your current medical condition. 

You are kind to share those details, and now you may be realizing why some people don't - to avoid the judgement.  It's neither helpful nor appreciated and I'd be so tempted to respond to her comments with sarcasm and condescension... but to try to avoid that while still getting the point across, you could try this: 

"CW, I shared my private medical issues as a courtesy.  I need to ask you to refrain from commenting on what you think my capabilities are or should be and what my treatment plan should be.  You are not my physician.  If I continue to hear these comments, I will need to ask boss or HR to address that with you directly.  Thank you for respecting my wishes."

Good luck to you.  I hope your diagnosis turns out to be benign and you can recover quickly from the surgery.

MamaMootz

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I POD the other posters. and want to add that I have PCOS and I get painful cysts quite frequently. Not all cysts are painful but the ones that are are TERRIBLE. I can't believe co-worker said "everyone gets them all the time and they go away on their own." Good thing I wasn't in the room with her because I would have set her straight in no uncertain terms.

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ebrochu

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I truly appreciate all these responses. You've been mirroring what I thought my reactions and responses should be, but given how I'm feeling right now, I wasn't sure I was necessarily thinking correctly. The hormone imbalance that comes with these cysts is in FULL swing.

I know I'm worth putting first as far as health goes. I'm the best one to know what I do and don't need. I guess I was think more along the lines of her having already established a precedent with being off, and then I stepped all over it. But one can't control when they are going to get sick!

I appreciate the recommendations of taking it to HR. I do have a chain of command to follow, so i do have to go to the boss first. But if she continues the harassment even after that, then it's to HR I go. Because you're all right, I shouldn't be treated like this because I'm sick enough that I can't work.

As to MamaMootz: I'm appreciative that you have an idea of what it feels like, and I sympathize with you. Right now, it feels like I've got a football sitting on my thigh when I sit even remotely forward!

thank you all! The recommendations are great, if you can keep them coming, that's awesome




kherbert05

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My sister had one of these.

My sister.....
 tried to walk on a dislocated knee.
Went 4 days with an untreated broken wrist.
Went 2 days and a plane flight with an untreated broken foot.

The cyst had her doubled over crying. Your CW needs to get over herself.
Don't Teach Them For Your Past. Teach Them For Their Future

gramma dishes

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Good grief!

Take care of yourself and don't worry one tiny second about that coworker!  Geesh!  You would think that she, of all people, would "get it". 

No, cysts do NOT always go away on their own.  You very well may need the surgery.  Just do what you have to do and don't let other petty people stand in  your way of taking care of YOU.

Trellia

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Ebrochu, first off, I hope all goes well with you for getting the cyst taken care of.

POD to everyone saying that you need to take care of your health first. As someone with a chronic illness that flares, I can say that we do NOT get a precedent for being off first. The time off is there for everyone who needs it. Yes, flares can be awful with stress and being unexpected, but that is our job to prepare for one and work with the boss.

I'm wondering if she is lashing out because she might be worried that she might flare up again on your time away and not be able to take time off, but even if that would the case, it's something that she would need to discuss with boss or HR and not you. I hope your boss will stop the harassment, since that is something no one needs when handling medical issues.

(If you don't mind a recommendation for the nausea, I'd suggest some mints or a wonderful product called Quease Ease that uses essential oils to be inhaled. I get some horrific nausea that comes out of nowhere. They work in seconds and don't mess with medications.)