Kudos to Portugal for making it illegal to contact employees on off days
WFFH: My boss called me in the middle of bereavement
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” on November 13, 2021.
I looked down at my phone, somewhere between confused and furious. My boss had just asked me for the magazine page number to read about an interviewee. The feature story wasn’t due for a month, and she’d had several weeks to ask me this question before. Instead, she waited until the day after I told her my grandfather died in front of me. I’m not even sure it was a full 24 hours. The text said, “I know you’re busy today but _______________” and randomly wanted me to tell her the exact magazine page number and issue so she didn’t have to leaf through prior magazine issues. I deleted the text. I knew that if I responded to a woman who was oblivious and selfish enough to ask me this that I was going to completely snap.
When I first made the decision to be a caregiver and knew that he was at end-of-life care, I’d originally told close family that I was quitting my job. I was going to take care of my grandfather full-time. My aunt (my grandfather’s oldest daughter) talked me out of it. Even though I had a savings, she said I would regret it later and to not give up my career even temporarily. My father, on the other hand, supported me quitting. As my grandfather’s son, I get it. Who would a son rather take care of his father? A random nurse or hospice worker who he doesn’t really know, or a woman who had been in his father’s life for more than 35 years. So my parents, my aunt and myself agreed to take turns as caregivers. My boss knew this because I told her — after I’d already told my job if they wouldn’t let me work from home, I’d quit.
I dutifully checked in on my remote days, even working after hours on my own time. I’d hooked up my work computer and monitor and brought all of my work home. I responded to emails and calls whenever need be, and sat in on virtual meetings. I was set to work from home long before social isolation was a thing. But when I walked toward his bedroom all set to feed and bathe him, and realized he was not moving, I was both happy to know that he passed away in his own home (that he built from scratch) and dreading telling others the news. But never in a million years would I think my boss would hear this news and still text me about a random magazine story.
I asked her about it after I returned to work three days later (the bereavement period), and she shrugged and said she found the magazine issue herself. No apology for calling me during bereavement. Just went about her day. When I brought it up a second time after she’d called and texted me from home on an off day a month or so later again, she snapped that I “shouldn’t keep bringing this up. We’re all on-call no matter what. My boss calls me from home too.” She went on to remind me that her own boss let me work from home and that she sent me flowers in a tone that basically said, “That’s not enough?” (I didn’t ask for the fucking flowers, and I would’ve much preferred her leaving me alone for 72 hours versus a vase of flowers that ALSO died soon after.)
I quit that job after only being there a little over a year. Hands down, she is the worst boss I have ever encountered, and I have had some doozies.
Portugal passes law making it illegal to call on off days
When I heard recent news about Portugal making it illegal for employers to call their employees on their off days, she was the first person who popped into my mind. As Trevor Noah talked about the new law on “The Daily Show,” all I kept thinking was this woman is the reason that laws like that need to be passed in the United States, too.