By Abigail Rivera

November 17, 2020

21 year old retail worker, Mackenzie Abbatiello, risks infecting her ill father if she visits home for the holidays this year. After receiving the unfortunate news that her father was diagnosed with cancer, her entire family has been extra cautious about social distancing and maintaining CDC guidelines in their personal life.

“I have to work to be able to pay bills and pay for school,” says Abbatiello.

“I’d have to take off work and get tested if I wanted to be able to see him.”

Many retail and restaurant workers risk their own health everyday by going to work, but many people have more than just themselves to worry about when it comes to spreading the virus. Although many businesses have adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is so much risk when being exposed to so many people, especially for those who are immunocompromised.

The simple solution for those who are at risk or have at-risk family members is to isolate; there aren’t many options to protect your family while still paying the bills.

The Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees are able to “take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons,” according the U.S. Department of Labor. FMLA only gives employees 12 work weeks in a 12 month period and cannot protect employees who want to avoid getting sick.

Earlier this year many employees who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 received pretty generous unemployment benefits and independent taxpayers received a $1,200 stimulus check. Since summer, efforts to pass another stimulus have failed.

Luckily for Abbatiello, she does not live with her ill father and can distance herself until it is safe to visit him again. Her manager at Ulta Beauty is giving her time off during the busy holiday season for her to get tested to spend Christmas with her family. The FMLA does have a provision to give workers time off, without pay, to help care for a sick child, spouse or parent but not a provision to take steps to avoid getting them sick.

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