Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bad Medicine

“At the time my youngest son Ryan had developed a very serious, life threatening medical condition and the major medical coverage which DC offered to all contracted freelancers actually turned out to be a 30,000 dollar family policy. When I pointed this out the DC’s upper management they actually tried to use my son’s illness and a promise of a better policy as a negotiation point for extending my contract another four years.”
-- Pat Broderick, via Journalista via LITG

To which I would add:

1. In late Fall of 2003 I was suffering from debilitating side-effects from the cholesterol drug Lipitor: grotesquely swollen joints, extreme arthritis, numbness, and general fatigue. At the time, I was assisting at least three editors, two of which were going or had gone on maternity leave. On top of which -- it was the holidays. I had a tremendous workload; not only my own, but to make up for the missing editors. I was in physical agony and requested a possible short medical leave to ride out some of the pain. Dan Didio went into my office, closed the door behind him, and said he talked to upper management about my request. I was not eligible for paid medical leave, he said, but they talked about it and decided to grant me one unpaid week of leave -- as a special gift to me. Unable to afford the break in income at that time, I declined, and continued to work in physical pain through the holidays, getting all the books in on time.

When my physical condition deteriorated even further the following Spring, the HR woman from Time Warner on the West Coast was absolutely shocked to find out that I was told I was not eligible for paid medical leave. Of course I was. And failing to get the appropriate rest earlier had compounded my condition and made things much worse.

2. When I resigned from DC in the Summer of 2004, medical insurance was used as a bargaining chip in order to get me to sign a non-disclosure agreement. If I signed the NDA, they would "fudge" the paperwork so I would get one extra month of health insurance. So basically, they would lie and say I was still working there when I wasn't, and my insurance would be temporarily extended. Part of the reason I was resigning was because I was still ill, and they said they knew how much I could use the insurance. But -- I would have to sign away my rights to ever speak ill of DC again in order to get that coverage. Which would basically take care of me ever bringing up sexual harassment again. I declined to sign the NDA. But the best part of all this was that by "fudging" -- they were basically lying. They were offering to use fraud to "help me out" -- but only if I signed a piece of paper covering their ass.

To be fair, this sort of shit happens at a lot of places. And had I not trusted DC as much as I did right off the bat, and really done my homework, I could have avoided a lot of this. And that's the best thing you can say about any of this -- that the worker really has a lot of rights and resources. They do. But you have to seek them out. Don't just consult your shiny worker's manual or believe what some upper management suit tells you. Be informed.

Companies have no right to offer "bargains" concerning your health.