Cosmetic Company Fires Mom Caring for Her Sick Children, and I Can Relate
For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the publishing company that I once worked for as a 28 year-old single mom. I am not sure how it is I forgot the name of the law book publishing company located on Avenue of The Americas in Manhattan, where I served as a secretary for four lawyers: one woman and three men.
I was struggling to stay afloat emotionally and financially, having rented space in a friend’s garage, where I slept on a couch and my one-year old slept in his crib, where we had no windows or anything much I could call my own.
It was a time when I would cry often over my son’s constant high fevers, vomiting, and dehydration. I would stress over the constant calls from the daycare to get my son and the frequent requests to my boss to leave to pick up my sick child.
It would be around the time when, on my way back from the hospital (where doctors explained there was nothing they could do to help my baby), that I would get a call from my female boss who, upon hearing me tell her I was tending to my sick child, responded with, “You need to fix it and get into work.”
It was at this publishing company where I would be called into the HR office, where the HR director and my female boss would sit me down and fire me because “of my constant absences from work” and then immediately promise me 6 more months of health insurance as long as I signed a document that said I agreed to not sue them – a document I signed without even reading because I knew I needed the coverage to care for my sick baby.
Later that night when my baby would suffer his first of many seizures. I remember sitting outside the room that I was not allowed to enter; where I could hear my son screaming getting a spinal tap to test for epilepsy, and where I cried and kept saying how grateful I was that I didn’t have to call my boss to tell her I couldn’t come in. Again.
I remember everything, but I don’t remember the name of that company.
However, when I read the story of Anna Golonka, the 30-year-old married mom who got fired for having to miss hours at her job as a counter manager for cosmetic giant Boots (by Elizabeth Arden) to tend to her sick child, I remember my experience and the faces of all those involved, especially the unsympathetic female supervisors who made the order.
Ms. Golonka is “suing beauty firm Elizabeth Arden for sexual discrimination after she claimed she was sacked for too many "unauthorized absences" due to her five-year-old autistic son and seven-month-old baby boy's medical needs”.
According to Ms. Golonka her boss told her, at the time of her firing, to “come back when her kids were older”. This may seem incredulous to some, but I believe it. I’ve been there and can attest that it happens, way more than most people and corporations would like to admit.
And some may say, “Well, she just needs to stay home and take care of her kids, she can always just “Lean In” later.” Except what if, like me, she actually needs that paycheck to help feed her family, keep her home, or pay for the medical care her children so desperately needs.
My life right now is so different. My son is now a 6’2, healthy and athletic 15 year old. I am happily married with two more kids in the mix and the only thing in my garage is my car. But when I read Ms. Golonka’s story, all the emotions, fear, sadness, and anger of those many years ago come take over me. And though I did a really good job at blocking out the company for which I worked I still often think about the people – women - who disposed of me without remorse or concern, when I needed the help the most. I see them in a lot of professional women dispensing advice to other women on what it takes and what they need to do to get there, oblivious to the reality of so many.
I hope Ms. Golonka gets every single penny she is suing for and more so that she can comfortably care for her family and sick children on the dime of the cosmetic giant who cared so little for a woman in need.