Who Works Sick

It’s a joke, the “mom cold” versus “dad cold” thing, a bad unfunny joke that plays on traditional middle class family roles and stereotypes, and I saw it repeated over and over on social media when Hillary Clinton nearly passed out after what surely was her 10 billionth event in 2 days and then waited like six seconds or something to tell everybody she had pneumonia.

(Can we please stop acting like she hid her dementia for years? We had a president who did that, and a bunch let their wives/aides run stuff, and no they shouldn’t have done that, and everything was fine.)

Of course she was working sick. The president doesn’t get a sick day ever. But a WOMAN president especially doesn’t get a sick day. Mom doesn’t get to stay in bed all day the way dad does, amirite ladies? Mom doesn’t get a cold. Mom has to be dying before somebody takes her seriously, whereas if Dad stubs his toe he’s in traction for weeks. Har dee har har.

You know who else doesn’t get to have a cold? You know who doesn’t get to take sick days, really?


Spare me talking about Hillary’s health by referencing comfortable women whose husbands are assholes. Those women can have honest conversations with the dickheads they’re married to, or find a new husband who is less of an adolescent.

Let’s talk instead about what it means when nobody in the family gets sick time.

Let’s talk about if you’re hourly, and your spot on the line can be filled by pretty much anybody.

Let’s talk about if you’re contract, and the work has to get done no matter what or the check don’t come.

Let’s talk about if you’re the owner of a one- or two-person operation, and being sick means closing the doors.

Let’s talk about if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Let’s talk about if you don’t work, your kids don’t eat. Let’s talk about if you don’t work, within a non-trivial amount of time you will be living in your parents’ basement at the age of 50.

Let’s talk about that, in addition to how much it sucks that your dumb failed-adult partner doesn’t do laundry.

Sick time isn’t just the privilege of men (there are plenty of stay-at-home dads whose partners’ careers depend on their health). It’s the privilege of WEALTHY men who can afford things like “paid leave” for themselves but refuse to grant it to their employees.

I mean, look at this shit before you get all mom cold on me here:

They’re usually part time: About 74% of full-time workers get paid sick leave, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, while around 24% of part-time workers get the perk.

They work for small businesses: Smaller companies are more likely not to offer paid sick leave, largely because of cost. Around half of firms with 50 or fewer workers offer the benefit while 81% of those with 500-plus employees have it, according to Paul Harrington, director of the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University.

They’re often in the service industry: Workers with service sector jobs, like food service or hospitality, are likely to go without sick time, along with those in health-care support services, including home health aids or dental assistants.

“Those are the exact type of jobs that you want people to stay at home because they have such high interactions with customers and co-workers,” said Jessica Milli, a senior research associate at The Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Many are Hispanic: Hispanic employees are less likely to have paid sick leave than white, Asian or black workers, according to Milli, with less than half of Hispanic workers getting the benefit.

They’re on the lower end of the income ladder: Government data show 90% of the top 10% of earners get paid sick time off, while 21% in the bottom 10% get it.

“Part of that is that you are more likely to be part time in the [lower bracket],” said Harrington.

It sucks that mom doesn’t get a day off, and that even at the executive level women are judged more harshly than men on this.

It also sucks that executive-level women’s employees don’t get a day off, and that they — men and women — have to work sick at least as often as Hillary does.