An Aside: FMLA and Pregnancy Disability Leave — AKA: Why I quit my job (profanity)

A quick back-story here.  I moved to Seattle, to live with my now-husband, from Washington, D.C. where I had spent many years trying desperately to find a political job.  Capitol Hill is probably one of the most competitive job markets out there… right up there with acting in Hollywood.  So I move to Seattle, and have no idea what I want to be when I “grow up.”  After a string of unfulfilling temp jobs, I decided I needed to find something meaningful, or at least enjoyable, for employment.  Over an hour from the state’s capital, political jobs were probably not a viable option.

What do I like doing?  I love playing poker.  My brother sparked my interest in the hobby shortly after I turned 21, in Atlantic City.  So I decided to become a poker dealer.  I went to specialized training, and learned the skill.  While searching for a dealing job, I decided to volunteer at an animal shelter.

I got a (part time) dealing job, and shortly thereafter was offered a part time position at the animal shelter.  I was working 3-4 days a week at each job, which had me working 6-7 days a week.  It was rough, but we were also saving for a house downpayment, so I sucked it up and worked my ass off.

Two days before we closed on the house (Nov ’10), my casino closed down.  New ownership wanted to remodel the casino part (it was a casino/bowling alley) and wouldn’t be bringing poker back with the remodel.  So through no fault of my own, I was suddenly without a job.  This was sort of a blessing in disguise, because I was running myself ragged between the two jobs, and was torn about possibly leaving one or the other.

So now I worked at the animal shelter 3 or 4 days a week, and filled in when I could to pick up hours.  I toyed with the idea of getting back into dealing, but was basically complacent with the shelter job, and too lazy to look hard for something else.

A little over a week after I found out I was pregnant, I started spotting.  This naturally scared the shit out of me.  My OBGYN put me on “pelvic rest” which meant no sex, tampons, etc. and I wasn’t allowed to lift more than 10 lbs.  The last of which caused a serious hindrance to my job at the animal shelter, as the majority of animals in our care were heavier than 10lbs.

Long story short (too late!) management was not willing to accommodate my restriction, and wanted to fire me.  Which is, um, what’s the word?  ILLEGAL.  Unfortunately, being part time, I was ineligible for FMLA.  After much research, I discovered the Pregnancy Disability Leave Act, which I was going to use to ask for unpaid leave off — the caveat being that I return to work as soon as the doctor considered me able.

Trust me, nobody gets into animal sheltering for the money.  I just really liked helping animals.  And I don’t care if it’s a non-profit, I still have the right to not be FIRED FOR BEING PREGNANT.

Somewhere in here, management had a lengthy discussion with my doctor, because they insisted on a doctor’s note, as well as a start and end date for the weight lifting restriction.  I allowed my doctor to talk to them (so it wasn’t a HIPAA violation, but I feel should not have been necessary), in the hope that she would explain it better to them–and I was very much in fear for my job.  It didn’t matter, they still wanted to fire me.

To her one and only credit, Boss fought management for me, and did not want me to be fired.

Unfortunately for me, possibly fortunately for the shelter, I miscarried, and did not have the chance to ask for leave with the Pregnancy Disability act.

So, I began to miscarry on Sunday, September 25th.  At the time, I was working three days a week, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  I suspect it actually started on Saturday, at the end of my shift, but I was in denial, and didn’t really have the option to leave my shift early.

I told Boss, through tears, Monday morning that I was having a miscarriage.  She said something one might expect to hear, along the lines of “I’m so sorry, that sucks.”  Then I told her that I probably would not be able to come to work that week.  To which her reaction was roughly, “wait, how long do you need off?”  She further told me she would have to find coverage for my shifts… basically implying that if she couldn’t find coverage, I would have to work.

I’m sorry, what?!

The next day, she tells me that she has found coverage for my Thursday and Friday shifts, but not for my Saturday.  This time more than implying that if she couldn’t find coverage, I would have to work.  To which I replied, “I’m sorry, I can’t schedule my grief around what’s convenient for you.”  To add insult to injury, Boss says “with Coworker’s pregnancy nearing an end, we can’t appear to be playing favorites.”

What the actual fuck?!  What the tap-dancing Christ does my coworker’s happy, healthy pregnancy have to do with my miscarriage?  So as I stand there, bleeding, losing the one thing I want more than anything in the universe, she has the nerve to rub my coworker’s healthy pregnancy in my face.  Long story short (again, too late!) I ended up having to get a doctor’s note in order to get all three days off that week.  How incredibly sensitive of my employer.  But, whatever, I at least finally got the time off.

Already unhappy with how management treated my lifting restriction (y’know, wanting to fire me, even though I’d been a faithful employee for over a year), I now had a huge shift in perspective.  But I told myself not to do anything rash while I was simultaneously coping with the gut-wrenching emotions attached to the miscarriage.

When I thought about how poorly Boss handled my miscarriage, it also made me reflect on other scenarios.  Basically, I realized that Boss was just really, really bad at her job.  My miscarriage was not the first situation she had handled poorly, or even the last that I witnessed in the next two months before I left.  Unfortunately, I had previously considered her a friend.  So I had ignored her lack of management skills because I simply attributed it to her quirky personality.

Vocalizing my concern over her (lack of) management skills proved enlightening, but ultimately futile.  Many others in middle-management also had great concerns about Boss’s ability to effectively perform her job.  Unfortunately, Boss’s direct Big Boss happens to be Boss’s BFF (not to mention, equally as inept at her job as Boss), and thus all complaints about Boss fall on deaf ears.  Which is why other middle-management didn’t bother to try and change things (or quite possibly had tried, and failed).

So I was now fighting two battles.  Advocacy for the rights of pregnant women at the shelter, and raising awareness that Boss is really bad at her job.

Fortunately, I was finally able to get through to Big Boss and HR Lady on the pregnancy issue.  To what end?  I will never know, and for the animals’ sake, (and any potentially pregnant future employees) I hope they don’t encounter a similar scenario there.

Unfortunately, the only complaints about Boss that weren’t ignored, were met with excuses.  Because, as far Big Boss sees it, Boss can do no wrong.

Talk about timing, though.  I had put in an application to the Casino down the road back in April or May.  As I said, I was mostly lazy in looking for a Poker job, so I only put in an application at the really-close casino, because it made the most sense to want to work there.  Anyway, Here it is November, and I am finally offered a position at the casino.

So I used that as a reason to bow out somewhat gracefully from my shelter job.  Well, I offered to keep my one shift that I didn’t work directly with Boss, but they said no, and I’m pretty sure they were eager to get rid of me anyway.


One thought on “An Aside: FMLA and Pregnancy Disability Leave — AKA: Why I quit my job (profanity)

  1. Pingback: 8 weeks & Perinatal Appt. (long) | Waiting for Baby Spice

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