Someone ‘Splain This To Me

In our weekly Tuesday Morning Torture Session yesterday, Douche Bag distributed the following document which supposedly has gone out to all of the Northern California Region employees.  At the top was the official logo with the burning people and the name of The Company That Created The HMO and it read as follows:

Northern California Region

Employee Live Call In Guidelines

November 2008

Purpose: Live call in refers to a process of requiring employees to call and speak directly with their managers (or designee) when they are unable to work their assigned hours.  The live call in process is designed to work in conjunction with other efforts to improve attendance.  Together, these efforts will help ensure a superior healthcare experiences for our members.  Having employees speak with or call in to a manager/supervisor creates an interaction where employees are supported to stay home when they are sick and find alternatives to calling out when they’re not.  If conditions other than illness(es) exist, alternative options can be explored such as coming in later in the shift so as not to miss the entire shift or other potential work accommodations.  This can help employees maximize the use of their sick leave benefits and minimize the impact to operations.

Impacted employees: All employees in Northern California

Expectations of impacted employees:

It is critical to our mission of providing superior healthcare to our members that employees and managers work together to manage attendance.  Therefore, impacted employees and their managers who do not follow the established expectations of the live call in process may be subject to disciplinary action or the corrective action/issue resolution process.

1.  Follow the established procedure for reporting absence:

a.  Call the identified number when unable to come to work

b.  Notify their manager (or designee) of his/her absence at lest two (2) hours before the employees scheduled start time whenever possible (and in accordance with relevant collective bargaining provisions)

c.  Provide the following information:

i.  The time and date of the call and the shift for which they are calling in sick

ii.  The general reason for the absence (i.e. illness, family members illness, etc.)

iii.  Expected date and time of return to work; and

iv.  Phone number and best time for the manager to call the employee back, should the manager need to contact the employee,

2.  When an employee leaves a call back number, the manager may elect not to call the employee back when in their judgment, the absence does not warrant a call back.  Call backs are for the purpose of verifying lengths of absences, offers of assistance and other similar information to aid managers in planning appropriate staffing levels.

Expectations of managers:

1.  Inform employees of the call in process and answer any questions they may have

2.  Provide the telephone number to which employees will be calling to report their absence

3.  Answer the established phone line on a regular basis

4.  When an employee reports an absence (from NCAL Attendance Management Guidelines section C-5)

a.  Establish estimated return to work

b.  Keep a record of the discussion in your anecdotal file and note the absence on any formal monitoring tools utilized

c.  Refrain from discussing reason for absence but make note of relevant information the employee voluntarily shares

d.  Ask the employee to bring in a Work Status Form if you have reasonable belief that the absence is questionable.

e.  Advise the employee of procedures to be followed if the absence may qualify for protected time, i.e. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

5.  The manager will speak with those employees with ongoing attendance problems upon his/her return to assess the circumstances, and if warranted take appropriate action in accordance with the Attendance Management Guidelines.  (Union represented employees – in accordance with the provisions of their respective collective bargaining agreements.)

Accountability

It is critical to our mission of providing superior healthcare to our members that employees and managers work together to manage attendance.  Therefore, impacted employees and their managers who do not follow the established expectations of the live call in process may be subject to disciplinary action or the corrective action/issue resolution process.

So here are the things I need explained to me.  First of all, “The live call in process is designed to work in conjunction with other efforts to improve attendance.  Together, these efforts will help ensure a superior healthcare experience for our members.”  This tells me we have a significant problem with attendance, but also that it is taking it’s toll in the Medical Centers.  I do not work in a Medical Center.  I work in the Facility Management office of a high rise building seven miles from the nearest hospital.  I never see, talk to or touch, a member (except for all the ones that work in my building and none of them in a medical capacity.)  Even if I had a problem with excessive absences, it wouldn’t impact the members.  More importantly, this tells me we have a problem with morale, in that setting, that our “Senior Leadership”, as they like to be called, can’t seem to identify.

Having employees speak with or call in to a manger/supervisor creates an interaction where employees are supported to stay home when they are sick…” First, I don’t need support for that and secondly that’s my business.  “…and find alternatives to calling out when they’re not.”  Again, this is my business and no one else’s.  “If conditions other than illness(es) exist, alternative options can be explored such as coming in later in the shift so as not to miss the entire shift or other potential work accommodations.”  If conditions other than illness exist, they’re still my business to deal with as I see fit.  If my employer feels that I have excessive absences, they have the right to track them and give me a warning about it and ultimately if it’s effecting my work or productivity then they must deal with that.  But this is a separate issue from an across the board mandate about how to use ones sick time.

This can help employees maximize the use of their sick leave benefits and minimize impact to operations.”  The argument against this is right there in their own words, “use of their sick leave”.  This document applies to our union employees who are granted sick leave, and vacation days separately.  Their sick days are for calling in sick.  Unexpectedly, needing to take a day off.  Calling in for something they didn’t have the ability to plan in advance and take a vacation day for.  It also applies to those of us who are non-union who are granted Paid Time Off (PTO) days each month which are to cover all forms of absences, sick and vacation days alike.  Neither group is granted “personal days” which means that if there is a personal issue that must be dealt with it must come from one of the time off categories they do have, and The Company that Created the HMO does not really have the right to tell us how or when we can or can’t handle these personal issues.

This first paragraph of the “Guidelines” clearly implies that our managers are to take it upon themselves to determine if our reasons for being out are justified and acceptable or if they think we should arrange our time differently than we have, yet Douche Bag in discussing these “guidelines” insists that it does not mean that, and that the only thing that’s changed is that we have to speak to him directly and not just leave a voice mail.  “If anything this means more work for me, not you.  You just have to call and do the same thing you’ve been doing, only talking to me.”  The problem with this theory is that DB is notorious for not telling the rest of the staff that an employee is not going to be in that day until noon, by which time it’s become clear to the rest of us that the person will not be in.

The list of expectations of the employee states that we should give a “general reason” for the absence.  This makes perfect sense, except that it is a contradiction to the first paragraph that clearly suggests that the manager will determine whether the absence is acceptable to his standard.

Here’s one of my favorites, “2.  When an employee leaves a call back number, the manager may elect not to call the employee back when in their judgment, the absence does not warrant a call back.  Call backs are for the purpose of verifying lengths of absences, offers of assistance and other similar information to aid managers in planning appropriate staffing levels.”  I’m pretty sure if this document had been given to me in soft copy and I’d highlighted that paragraph it would have included something along the lines of “So we can check up on you and make sure that you really are sick and staying home taking care of your self and not taking the day off to take your children to Disneyland, or take your car to the mechanic or have a vasectomy that you didn’t want to discuss with your boss or some other such nonsense.

I’m fairly certain we were not intended to see this document that we were given.  It seems clear to me that The Company that Invited the HMO would have preferred that we not see the “Expectations of Managers.”  “b.  Keep a record of the discussion in your anecdotal file…”  “c.  Refrain from discussing reason for absence but make note of relevant information the employee voluntarily shares.”  Might as well read, “Make subjective judgments about the validity of the employees reason for being absent without gathering any reliable information from the employee first.  Do not blatantly violate the employees rights but do it secretively and as subversively as you possibly can, so as to avoid any culpability should legal action ensue.”

Country Dumbkin, in her infinite “wisdom” piped up during the Tuesday Morning Torture Session that this was unreasonable.  “What’s the point?  They think we’re going to be afraid to talk to you and so we won’t call in sick?”  Bingo!  And if the Village idiot picked up on this…?

Don’t misunderstand me.  It’s not that I have a problem with talking to my boss when I call in sick.  No, I don’t want to, because he’s a putz and I’d rather just state my plans than have any sense that I have to justify myself, but I can do it without a problem.  Traditionally, I use voice mail so that I can leave one message for everyone in the office without having to make multiple calls.

What I resent is the implicit sense of being reprimanded.  There is clearly a problem that needs to be dealt with but that problem is not how I go about calling in sick.  It also seems clear to me that the real motivation behind this has nothing to do with how we call in sick but rather to try and prevent us from doing so.  The real motivation is to try and force us to disclose what we’re doing with our personal time so that our management can decide whether or not they feel that the reason for the absence is justifiable.

I think the part I resent the most is that we (the staff) discussed in the Tuesday Morning Torture Session that this is nothing more than an intimidation tactic and Douche Bag insisted that it was not.  He actually said, “Well, let me put a positive spin on this…”

We sat and looked at him, waiting for the “positive spin” and after nearly ten seconds I said, “Too late.  If you have to think that hard to come up with positive spin, then I don’t believe you anyway.”

Upon further consideration and discussion with Unsvelt Girl Who Runs I’m not entirely convinced that this document is legitimate.  I’m not inclined to think that Douche Bag is lying to us, at least not knowingly, but it’s hard for me to believe this is a legitimate document.  The Company That Created The HMO is fond of sending out mass, Corporate Communication and I’ve read a lot of it.  This document doesn’t read like the majority of those documents.  Furthermore, there is a specifically formatted, document template that the company uses for all Policies & Procedures/HR Guidelines, and this document does not match them.  You will, of course,  have to take my word for it because the recreation above doesn’t look anything like the document I received, let alone matching the template to which I’m referring.

Their are two working theories in place:

Theory A: Douche Bag, who is decidedly passive aggressive (occasionally rather aggressively so) has issues with how things have been going but doesn’t have the balls to deal with it directly.  The flaw in this theory is that this document was, without a doubt, not written by Douche Bag himself.  When the document was discussed and he mentioned the part where it discusses alternative accommodations, our Financial Analyst piped up and said, “Is telecommuting considered an alternative accommodation?”

I looked over at her and said, “Considering you’re the only one in the department who has that option?”

She didn’t respond verbally but it was clear from her expression that she didn’t appreciate the comment.  I do not care because it needed to be pointed out and there is a considerable amount of inequality going on in my department.  I don’t expect it’s going to change, and in fact I’m pretty sure it’ll get worse, but I feel like someone has to make sure it doesn’t go unnoticed.  If I’m the only one who will carry that torch, then so be it.

Later when Douche Bag couldn’t “put a positive spin on it” and I called him on it Financial Analyst, who had otherwise been fairly quiet about the whole thing (the only one in the meeting who was) said, “We’ve talked this to death.  Let’s move on.”  One could argue that her tone was somewhat defensive.  Perhaps it was, or perhaps Unsvelt Girl and I are reading into it to support the following theory.

As we discussed the idea that this was possibly not what it was presented to us to be, she brought up the possibility that perhaps Financial Analyst wrote it for Douche Bag.  I have never had a reason to read anything that Financial Analyst has composed so I don’t know how likely this theory is.  If it’s true though, it is rather strange.  One has to wonder what could possibly be the motivation behind it all.

Theory B:  Douche Bag‘s boss is somehow behind the whole thing and his incompetent Adminary, who Unsvelt Girl and I, not so affectionately refer to as Tri-dub or Wicked Witch of the West (because she’s in the other building which is west of ours) was the actual author.  It reads like someone who is rather ignorant and thinks more highly of their intellect and abilities than is justified, wrote it.  Since that is an excellent description of Tri-dub it would not be so far fetched to believe that she authored the document.  It is also not so far fetched to believe that Douche Bag‘s boss is behind the concept of the document.  It is, however, difficult to believe that he would use deception in such a manner as to suggest that this is a regional policy if it isn’t.

What is really going on, I do not know.  What I do feel confident of, however, is that there is much more than meets the eye and I’m really grown tired of all the games and half truths that I’m dealing with.  I desperately need to find new employment, but I’m afraid that with the economy in it’s current state, and unemployment numbers being what they are, finding new employment isn’t likely to happen any time soon.  Sigh!

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