A Moral Debate on Weakened Immune Systems

She had managed to realize her fears and came down with a cold just a few days before her departure for the trip that would save her soul. She had done all she could to avoid the splash zone of germs that her coworkers paraded around the office, proud of the fact that they were struggling through their illness to still do their job. However, her immune system had taken a beating over the years, and it was no longer strong enough to resist the attacks of the all-too-common cold. She had even followed the recommendation of her doctor, against her personal preferences, to have the flu vaccine this year, which had obviously done her a lot of good this year, as she had already been sick three other times this persistent cold and flu season. Although she had previously been guilty of such practices, she was annoyed that her coworkers had the audacity to show up sick and contagious, just to prove a point that they were dedicated to their job. Their dedication however was the cause of other’s absenteeism and an overall loss of productivity for the office. She had to use all of her sick days, because her coworkers refused to use theirs. This had become a consistent issue in her life, and her mind and body were both tired of it.

She had forced herself to power through many a day in the past, miserable with head congestion and an upset stomach. She had done as she was taught, loaded up on cold meds, and dragged her exhausted body into work in order to show her dedication to the position she held and the paycheck she depended on. She had coughed all over her fellow coworkers, puked in many an employee bathroom, and even exposed an entire plane to strep throat. Her boss had peeled her off of a bathroom floor before, completely dehydrated and passing out, but refusing to leave her post as to not inconvenience her coworkers and the hotel guests she was responsible for serving. She was the poster child for hypocrisy in this matter, but karma was determined to remind her of her past faults. She was now victim to the same selfish act that she had performed in the past.  She recognized the need for change in attitude in regards to working while sick, and was determined to make it happen in the office that she now managed, but it needs to happen on a larger scale than that. As an American, we are told that your work ethic is what makes or breaks you in this job market, and any sign of weakness is a potential opportunity for you to lose your job to someone who is more able bodied and dedicated than you. We applaud the workers who make it into work with an obvious strain on their face, willing to soldier through their personal struggle for the good of productivity. Although we avoid interaction with them the entire day, we allow our coworkers and employees to continue sitting in misery at their desks, working at half capacity until they are too exhausted and need to be sent home. We keep a stash of cold meds in our desk drawers, ready to suppress the warning symptoms that alert us to our body needing rest. We soldier on for the sake of money and out of fear, because no one has told us that we are only human, and it’s understandable if we catch a cold or have an upset stomach from time to time. There is no leniency when it comes to showing up to work, understandably so, but companies not providing sick days to their employees is a crime against humanity and our culture. In doing so, those companies are telling their employees that they expect them to work at impossible levels of productivity, that can only be expected from machines. Humans are not machines, and we are all subject to the occasional illness or ailment, no matter how healthy you might be or how many precautions you take to protect your health.

She had recently begun to listen to her own body, and would not allow her employer to change that new habit. When she was sick, she stayed home and allowed her body the rest it needed. She knew that she was not nearly as productive when she had to waste her limited energy on getting dressed and driving into work, so she made the less selfish choice to stay home, not contaminate the office, and work from the confines of quarantine. Yet, she felt guilty and relieved all at once when making that decision. She knew she was doing the right thing in her mind, but she was unsure that her actions would be viewed favorably by her bosses and coworkers, or if her recent illness before taking a month off of work, would leave her with a job at all when she returned. She was afraid that because she had decided to make healthier decisions for herself, and place work as less of priority for her mental health, that she would be out of the opportunity to make a living at all. She knew she was a good, intelligent worker, and incredibly productive when she was in the office, however that was always forgotten in the face of glaring absenteeism from work, and she knew that. So she enjoyed her sick days while she could, uncertain that instating the new view on going to work sick would have any lasting effect, as it might be the very cause of what looses her that position of influence in the first place.

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