When employers don’t understand

As I mentioned in a previous blog, K had to have two eye surgeries last year. He had developed Keratoconus, an eye disorder that causes the cornea to bulge out like a cone and can lead to blindness. He had to have a corneal transplant in both eyes. It was a very hard time for hubby and I. I was already off work due to stress leave and now we had to deal with the chance of our son with Down Syndrome, Autism, and Epilepsy losing his eyesight as well.
He had the first surgery in Jan 2011. We chose to do the healthier eye first, as the other would require a full transplant and we wanted to make sure he would tolerate everything well. This one was only a partial transplant. K got through the surgery no problem but was going to require someone with him 24/7 to make sure he didn’t touch his eye. Hubby had to take some time off work because I can’t handle K myself. After the surgery we had to make weekly trips to the hospital for checkups. We tried to make the appointments for when hubby was finished work but that wasn’t always possible. Unfortunately K would not keep the eye guard on and he wouldn’t stop rubbing his eye so the stitches came out. Back into surgery he went and this time the eye surgeon sewed the whole eye shut. That made it extremely difficult because now K couldn’t see at all out of his good eye, and his bad eye was legally blind. Only 10% vision. K had to stay like that for a month. Hubby again had to take some time off. He applied for special leave through his work. In the meantime they were using his vacation to cover his wages, so we wouldn’t lose any pay. With me already off on disability, our income had already decreased.
Finally, after 6 months, K’s eye was perfectly healed and the stitches all came out! The change in him was incredible! He walked faster. He would see something across the room and go get it. He didn’t sit right in front of the TV to watch it. I couldn’t wait for the other eye to be done!
Hubby and I planned some time away, just the two of us at the end of Aug to recharge and relax after going through all that stress. Hubby was on his pre-approved vacation, so he thought, until he got a call from his work saying he had no vacation time left so if he stayed off he wouldn’t get paid. He asked if he could borrow some time from next year and was told he had already used that too. So much for our vacation.
The other eye was done in Sept. After learning the lesson with the first eye, the dr sewed it shut right off the bat. We still had the weekly trips to the hospital and someone had to be with him 24/7, but he left this eye alone, thank goodness. This eye healed very well. We thought we would have no more problems. We were wrong.
Hubby noticed hours were being taken off his cheque. Time that he had previously been paid for was being taken back. Sometimes he wouldn’t get a paycheque at all! He went to his supervisor who told him his special leave request had been denied. His work, instead of taking off 10% per pay until any overpayment was paid back, was taking off full shifts, putting it in the system as unpaid leave. Hubby put in a grievance to his union. After some time he was offered 6 shifts back. Hubby refused.
Right before Christmas, they took more time off, leaving us with no money for the holidays. Hubby called the VP, who he had met previously and knew his story. He had the company give us $1500 to help us through the holidays. We thought that was wonderful, until the first pay in Jan when the company took it back. That took his whole pay. Again. Bills were beginning to pile up, our mortgage was late a few times. It wasn’t helping my stress, and certainly wasn’t helping Hubby’s either. He continued to put in grievance after grievance but it seemed no one was listening.
Then he fell at work and hurt his knee. Knowing if he went off sick he wouldn’t get paid, he accepted modified duties. When his knee wasn’t getting better the doctor told him to stay off. Hubby applied for WSIB. He was denied. Another 2 weeks taken off his cheque.
His calls to the VP went unanswered. His meeting with the arbitrator was put off due to “lack of information” on the company’s part. His union told him his grievance has gone national. What that seems to mean is they can put him off indefinitely. Sure seems that way. Hubby even called his company’s EAP (employee assistance program), but they couldn’t help him either.
We are one more postponed meeting away from going to the media with our story. I thought I would bring it here first. What good is Special Leave when you can’t have it when you really, really need it? What do you do when it seems your employer doesn’t care? His job used to be Hubby’s escape from the stress at home. He enjoys his job. Now they are causing him more stress than K ever could. Comments and suggestions are welcome and needed.



2 thoughts on “When employers don’t understand

  1. You need legal advice. The website for the Law Society of Upper Canada has information about some resources available. http://www.lsuc.on.ca/ There is a lawyer referral service where you can get 30 minutes of free advice from a lawyer. There is also Law Help Ontario http://www.lawhelpontario.org/ which has resources available on line, and they also provide some legal services. As for going to the media, I think the only reason not to do that is if it would make things worse at your husband’s job. If you think it wouldn’t make things worse – then go for it!

  2. I’m disgusted to read that and believe that any employer would be so heartless to think that while your child is having surgery that as a parent you wouldn’t have to be there. You don’t plan to have children with SN, and I sometimes think that if they were to live our lives for one week, would they see it differently. Not only do we have the child to worry about, we then have all the financial worry as well. I am in the position now that Dad had to give up work to be here for R. We are now putting our house up for sale because we have no choice. But I will sign off now because I could write about this all day. X

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