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I Am Being 'Guilt-Tripped' Into Giving Up My Sick Time

Q. One of my co-workers is ill and will be off for a while. We have been told we can donate sick time to her. It’s not that I am unfeeling, but I’m afraid that if I donate, I won’t have enough time if I become ill myself. We’re getting a lot of pressure – am I obligated to do this?

A. Let’s be clear about something. You are by no means obligated to donate your sick time. You are not being unfeeling or unjust to not do so.

In my view, this is a right-hearted, but wrong-headed policy. Like pay grade and vacation days, sick time is an individual matter and should be managed as such. The practice you describe confuses the lines and creates a bartering and loan system. No wonder you feel such mixed feelings of pressure and false guilt. Mixed message = mixed feelings.

The basic notion of justice is to give to the other his due. It’s all about obligation. Fairness is achieved when obligations are met. BUT, there are three different types of justice (cf CCC 2411):

• The individual to the individual (commutative justice). You loan me $10. I owe you $10.

• The individual to the whole (legal justice). I come to work on time, complete my tasks, don’t steal company property, etc.

• The whole to the individual (distributive justice). The company pays my full wage on time, provides equipment, safe working conditions, etc.

The problem with your company’s policy is that it’s mixing up three obligations in a muddled mess. The exchange rate is unclear. Does the company owe sick time to the individual or the group? Are individuals responsible to use their sick time or borrow or loan with co-workers or donate back to a sick time pool?

I would advise the following:

1. Keep your sick time to yourself. Use it only when you’re sick and accrue it when you’re healthy.

2. Don’t feel a lick of guilt. You don’t “owe” another your salary, vacation or sick time.

3. If you want to help your co-worker, express it in your own way. You can take him/her a meal, help with errands, etc. This is called charity, not justice. It’s voluntary, rewarding and pleasing to the God who loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

4. If you want to help your employer, volunteer to cover some of the fallout from your co-worker’s absence.

5. Tactfully point out the policy flaw to your supervisor. Maybe you can be an influence for a smarter approach.

Finally, where was a good grade donation policy when I was racking up C’s in college? But that’s a subject for another column – sloth and its consequences.