An Ohio nurse lost her job after she violated her employer's attendance policy by staying home sick with the flu.
Theresa Puckett was a "fill-in" nurse at University Hospitals when she called out of work once in December and was sent home early on another occasion while she was battling the flu. Because she took two non-approved absences within 60 days, she was told she violated the hospital's attendance policy and was fired.
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“I was putting in my cough drops, I was drinking my water,” she recalled. “I mean the whole nine yards just to patch myself up enough to go to work.”
According to Puckett, the hospital’s attendance policy is a reflection of a medical culture that expects hospitals to be fully staffed regardless of the consequences — even if potentially spreading illnesses to patients is one of them.
“When it happened to me, and I really, truly was too sick to go to work, I was punished for that,” she said. “I was punished for staying home with a doctor’s note.”
University Hospitals responded to the incident by explaining that their “no-fault” attendance policy, meaning “notes from a physician do not ‘excuse’ an occurrence of absence,” is consistent with policies in other medical systems nationwide. The only types of acceptable absences include approved leaves of absence, workplace illnesses or injuries, scheduled paid time off such as vacation time or doctor appointments, jury duty and bereavement leave. Thus, even Puckett’s note from her doctor instructing her to avoid contact with ill people was not enough.
“There are times where I have gone to work so sick that the patient who is laying in the bed is in better condition than myself,” said Puckett. “I am more sick than the patient lying in the bed.”
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