Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

What makes a good employer?

Many years ago, I was working for a newspaper, in a seriously unsung job: sports agate clerk. What the sports agate clerk does is put together all of the sports statistics that appear in small print, usually on either page 2 or page 4 of the sports section, and in more enlightened newspapers, also adjacent to articles about the sports the statistics describe. The job involves getting statistics off the wire services for national professional and college sports and formatting them into box scores, and also taking information over the telephone about local sports, such as high school football and basketball games, and creating box scores for them.

Yes, it wasn't exactly glamorous work. And it didn't pay very well. But I enjoyed it immensely -- the people I worked with were crazy, but a whole lot of fun; the sports desk was known as the "toy department" at the newspaper, because we were all about fun and games. And the employer made sure I had all of the ergonomic assitance to be sure I could do the job as well as possible with as littls as possible discomfort (or risk of repetitive stress disorder).

Because I am very short (4 foot 11), the ergonomics folks disassembled my cubicle and reassembled it with the desktops as low as they would go. That still wasn't low enough, so I got a $1200 ergonomic chair, with fancy controls for arm rests and back support, and all sorts of other things. Once the chair was adjusted to reach the height of the keyboard, my feet didn't reach the floor, so I got a $150 footrest. And then, to keep me from getting a crook in my neck from using my shoulder to prop up a telephone receiver while I typed in data, I got a headset -- specially adjusted for me because, while I hear equally well with either ear, I only understand with the right. The newspaper did all of this for me, even though I was a peon, earning not much more than minimum wage.

I no longer have that job, but I do still remember how well I was treated. Anybody else who wants to work for that newspaper, I will give a glowing recommendation.

Pat, on the other hand, is working at a job that pays about four times what I got at the newspaper. And he's not getting any ergonomic consideration at all. He broke his wrist last year, and he's had to deal with limitations related to that injury, but his employer isn't willing to make accommodations. He has to deal with a desk that was too high even before the injury and that is now causing serious muscle strain because he has to type on an elevated keyboard. He doesn't get breaks from work to stretch overstressed muscles. He has a cheap chair that does have arms, but those arms aren't adjustable. He gets a lump of tense muscles the size of a grapefruit in his right shoulder from the strains.

I have suggested that Pat might request more accommodations for his physical problems, possibly as either a workers' comp or Americans with Disabilities Act issue. I know that grapefruit-sized lump could easily be seen as a workers' comp issue, and anything stemming from the wrist injury might involve the ADA. He's been reluctant to make such requests, since he doesn't want to be seen as "rocking the boat."

It just seems a pity that what one employer saw fit to provide, without even being asked, for even a very low-level employee, is something another employer considers unreasonable, even for a highly-paid professional.


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