“Sick Daughter” Shouldn’t Be the Reason Anyone Loses a Job

 

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I lost the opportunity to do work I loved, and to support my three-year-old daughter, Ari, when Security Industry Specialists (SIS) fired me after Ari got sick. I was a security officer at Amazon headquarters in Seattle, and I really saw my job as making the Amazonians feel safe and at home.

Two years ago, union workers and community members succeeded in passing a law in Seattle to make sure all workers are able to take time off when they’re sick or need to take care of a family member. But when Ari got sick and I had to stay home until I could find a babysitter, SIS didn’t seem to have the sick time law in mind.

Even though I called in and had more than enough time accrued, the company fired me. And they did this even though I wasn’t even scheduled to work the day my daughter got sick. I was being asked to fill in for someone else and was always happy to help out that way.

The company told me they wouldn’t hand over my final pay card until I signed their paperwork saying that what happened was my fault. I was worried about taking care of my daughter, so I signed it. The reason they wrote was “attendance,” but it should have said “sick daughter.”

As employees working together every day, you know each other’s stories. They knew I had a young child, and yet they fired me. I was unemployed for five months, and worried every day about how to pay our rent and keep from disrupting Ari’s childcare program where she’s learning so much. Now I’m speaking out to prevent any other family from having to go through what we did.

Richell Banks is a former SIS security officer.

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