Author Topic: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed  (Read 5213 times)

little_brown_dog

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 915
Hi there mustachians,

I have been lurking for quite a while but wanted to break my silence to post this question/scenario.

Scenario: I am pregnant and work in a very abusive/toxic workplace. Despite strong performance and a great work history with my current employer, I have endured significant harassment and poor treatment ever since I announced my pregnancy. Long story short, I have a serious pregnancy/sex discrimination situation on my hands. I am prepared to defend myself to HR if necessary, but I question the wisdom of a fight.  I could fight, get legal, and probably end up with a nice severance package due to the highly suspicious nature of my case. But that would take time and I would burn any bridges with upper management even though I am clearly justified for pushing back. I was on the fence about returning to this place after maternity leave and the past few weeks have convinced me to not return after the baby is born.

Right now I am strongly considering resigning in the next month or two so I can maintain my integrity and happily move on with my life. Yes, I wouldn’t be fighting for justice and yes we would take a financial hit, but I don’t want to spend the remaining weeks of my pregnancy worried and stressed. I know chronic stress has been associated with serious pregnancy complications like pre-term labor, low birth weight, high blood pressure, etc.

My husband is supportive, but we rely on my work for better health insurance and I use the modest income to pay down my student loans faster (hubby covers all other expenses). I also put a small amount of my salary to retirement (2% + 2% employer match). We could switch to his insurance and have slightly worse coverage for a similar price, but then he would be responsible for covering those premiums and the burden of my student debt on top of everything else. I would try to get another part time position after the baby is born but it would be 100% 1-income living until the end of the year. This is financially feasible for us due to my husband’s generous income and a significant emergency fund, but it would require some sacrifice. He would probably have to reduce his retirement contributions from 6% + 6% employer match to about 4% + 4% employer match until he receives another raise or I get another job. We would have to slow down our accelerated debt repayment on my student loans for the time being. Our contributions to the emergency fund would be reduced, but we shouldn’t have to dip into it at all for anything other than birth related expenses (already anticipated and planned for).

We have reason to suspect my husband may see a substantial raise (5-10K) sometime this summer, but no guarantees. Our financial stability is not dependent on the raise, but receiving it could allow us to avoid a reduction in retirement savings, extra loan payments, or both. I should mention that other than my student loans (50k total - down from 100K 4 years ago) we have no car, credit card, or other debt.

If you were in this scenario would you take the financial hit for health/quality of life? Would you fight? How have others balanced immediate quality of life and financial concerns with long term financial goals?

**I’d also like to mention- we make good money, but nothing mind blowing, so we would never have been able to even consider this if we hadn’t followed the sage advice of MMM and like-minded peers. Emergency funds, dedication to eliminating debt, and frugal/simple living practices allow you to have more options when life rears its ugly head. I am so thankful for the great advice we received and that we wised up and got on the MMM and financial stability train before this happened**

AlwaysBeenASaver

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 444
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2015, 05:27:33 PM »
If I were in that situation, I would stop going to work immediately, and tell HR that you can no longer work in that environment. You mentioned it was a toxic enough environment that it could possibly cause pregnancy complications: is there any amount of money that's worth risking your unborn child's health? I would not state it as a resignation, just leave it as "I cannot come to work in this environment while I'm pregnant." I wouldn't be worried about burning bridges, doesn't sound like a company you would want to go back to anyway.

mxt0133

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1559
  • Location: San Francisco
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2015, 05:38:44 PM »
I would personally milk the pregnancy situation and do everything you can to reduce your work stress.  Work slower or take more breaks.  If they ask you to do stressful tasks such as working extra hours or late night conference calls tell them you are fatigued and can't do it.  Get a doctor's note if you have to.  What I'm trying to say is that if they are making your life hell because you are pregnant then make their life hell as well.  If they fire you while you are pregnant than then that discrimination lawsuit should be a slam dunk.  Let the lawyers stress about it.

You need that insurance at least until two to three months after you give birth and then just call them up and tell them that you aren't coming back.  There are not bridges to burn as it seems like they have already blew them up when you told them you were pregnant.

Relax and don't over stress yourself.  Take all the sick days and vacation days that you are entitled to, leave early, what are they going to do fire you for being sick while you are pregnant?

lhamo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9835
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2015, 05:41:50 PM »
I would:

1)  Be sure you have hard copy documentation of everything
2)  Make an appointment with an employment attorney to see how solid your case is (sounds pretty solid to me) and then
3)  Make an appointment with your doctor and, once the risk to your health is documented, go on medical leave

Consider filing a case while on medical leave, and let the attorney handle it.

You will probably get a settlement offer.  You don't really need to "defend yourself to HR" in a situation like this -- as soon as you file suit, it is their job to defend the company.  If your documentation is solid, they will want to get this over and done with ASAP.

mustachianteacher

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 204
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2015, 05:45:38 PM »
I would absolutely quit. This is why you do all the mustachian things in the first place: to have options. Many people in your situation would not have the resources to even consider quitting a viable option, but since it IS an option for you, by all means, run while you still have your sanity.

By the way, when I have a hard time making a decision, I often ask myself what I would do if fear weren't a contributing factor. Make decisions based on love, not fear. You love your baby, your sanity, and your health. You fear that just walking away isn't the "right" thing to do, and that you aren't meeting your financial goals as quickly as you had planned. When you look at it that way, love wins.

Eric

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4061
  • Location: On my bike
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2015, 05:55:46 PM »
I am prepared to defend myself to HR if necessary, but I question the wisdom of a fight. 

Whatever you decide, please realize that HR is NOT on your side.  It is their job to protect the company.  Period.

I would at least gather documentation and have a chat with an attorney as lhamo suggests.  S/he will probably be able to present you with all your options.

lhamo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9835
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2015, 07:09:31 PM »
I'm not an employment attorney, but you should definitely talk with one.  It is illegal for them to punish you for your health issues.  If you are covered by FLMA then what she is doing is definitely illegal.  You could get yourself a nice little settlement out of this.

And remember HR IS NOT THERE FOR YOU!!!!!  HR's role is to protect the company, period. 

Document everything, even if only by sending emails to yourself (personal account) after every single incident.  If there are witnesses, try to get them to verify in writing your account of the situation.  At least that is what I would do.  Talk with the attorney you know.

And don't worry too much about the health insurance.  They will have to offer you Cobra -- it's the law.  It may be more expensive than what you are paying now, or your husband's insurance, but it will cover you during any gap.

Good luck and keep us posted with updates.  I'm betting you get a nice settlement that will fund a decent maternity leave.

Oh, also -- make sure you talk with your doctor about what your options are for going on short-term disability.  During my first pregnancy I was under a lot of stress, compounded by the fact that my son was breech.  I was having to go to all kinds of appointments trying different things to get him to turn.  It wasn't until about a week before my due date that my midwife blurted out in exasperation "why don't you just go on short-term disability NOW!"  I had been avoiding it, because I thought I only could take a certain amount of maternity leave, period, so was trying to save up for after the birth.  She explained that if it is a medical leave, that is separate from other maternity leave.  I could have gone on medical leave several weeks before the birth, and then still taken my maternity leave after -- they were separate "pots" of leave.  I felt pretty stupid at that point.....  Given that you have already had 3 ER trips I am guessing it wouldn't be that hard to get your OB to declare your pregnancy high risk, and put you on bedrest.  Something to consider.

And remember, the job won't love you back...

asiljoy

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 406
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2015, 08:30:09 PM »
I would:

1)  Be sure you have hard copy documentation of everything
2)  Make an appointment with an employment attorney to see how solid your case is (sounds pretty solid to me) and then
3)  Make an appointment with your doctor and, once the risk to your health is documented, go on medical leave

Consider filing a case while on medical leave, and let the attorney handle it.

You will probably get a settlement offer.  You don't really need to "defend yourself to HR" in a situation like this -- as soon as you file suit, it is their job to defend the company.  If your documentation is solid, they will want to get this over and done with ASAP.

This. Do this asap.

lhamo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9835
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2015, 10:06:28 PM »
If you haven't read it before, I highly recommend Bob Sutton's "The No Asshole Rule" -- read it when I had to deal with a psycho boss and helped me understand it wasn't me.  His blog is great, too.

The Wikipedia entry on pregnancy discrimination also provides a lot of good background/reference links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pregnancy_discrimination#United_States


okits

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8923
  • Location: Canada
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2015, 01:27:52 AM »
Is it legal for you to carry a hidden tape recorder into these meetings with your manager?  Would the audio files be admissible?  Even if not, being in possession of proof that your manager is undermining and harassing you could be valuable in fighting a wrongful termination or when negotiating damages.

Lhamo's suggestions are spot on.  If you can wait until after your baby is born to take on the stress of fighting with your company, that would make the choice easier.

As to whether or not to fight, I agree there will be a personal cost in terms of stress, time, energy, and perhaps legal costs.  It is easier to hold your nose and walk away.  But you have to know yourself. Will you feel angry and victimized if you don't stand up for yourself?  Do you feel you owe it to the other workers who face unfair treatment but don't have the ability, financial security, or simple lack of fear to fight for themselves?  "Fighting" may simply involve assembling your case, letting your company know you have it, then reaching a settlement.  And while that's not as dramatic as a big blow-out in court, I truly believe every time a company fails to get away with illegal treatment of its employees it removes some of the incentive to pulling the same B.S. in the future.  Plus, you will personally benefit from a settlement if you obtain one.

I fully agree with others who have cautioned you that HR's primary function is to safeguard the company's interests, not yours.  Even if they smile and make helpful noises it doesn't count until you have it in writing.

Please update us and reach out if you need support or more advice. 

lhamo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9835
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2015, 02:50:43 AM »
Oh, and I can't believe that your manager is a WOMAN -- WTF!?!?!?!??!

I hope you take these people DOWN!

The fact that others can take sick leave without incident (I hope you have documented cases -- that will be really important) while your emergency medical appointments are being held up as grounds for censure in my opinion makes this a slam dunk. 

It sounds to me that your boss has probably already decided that you are not the type to come back after maternity leave, and is doing everything in her power to encourage you to quit.  Bitch.  Again, I hope you take her down.  She has it coming to her,

I hit a major glass ceiling in my previous organization after the birth of my second child -- they suggested I go to part time, then continued to demand almost a full time work load, and when I decided to go back to full time after a year they tried to reduce my salary by 25%.  Yeah, that was fun.  So stuff like this really makes my blood boil.



Why are people so stupid? 

alsoknownasDean

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2010
  • Age: 35
  • Location: Melbourne, Australia
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2015, 03:28:35 AM »
Yikes, get out of there! That or raise the issue with HR first (or your union if you're in one).

No amount of money is worth putting up with that shit.

Goldielocks

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6445
  • Location: BC
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2015, 11:17:06 AM »
Hi Everyone,

I really appreciate the feedback. We have an acquaintance in employment law and will consult with her on the details to see if we can come up with a plan. It takes 1 month to get on my husband’s health insurance, so I need to make sure that I can maintain coverage for that month transition period. If I were to stop going in to work, or if they try to fire me, I risk a gap in coverage and might have to pay out of pocket for my prenatal appts and my fetal ultrasound.  This is one of my biggest concerns- the gap in coverage, particularly if it happens too close to my due date. At the end of the day, I just want to do what is best for my family...

 In case you are interested in what pregnancy discrimination might look like:

1 – last year I received a top rated evaluation and have consistently received praise from boss and other high level leaders for my work quality and work ethic. However as my pregnancy has progressed all of a sudden my relationship with my boss has tanked and she threatened to call HR on me because of poor performance. When this came up I was shocked.  I asked my boss point blank about my performance during my work hours and she said I continue to do great work, I was a huge asset, but that my recent emergency absences (3 in 3 months for urgent doctor’s visits and a trip to the ER) were unacceptable and if I had any more she would call HR on me. Even though she is fully aware that my absences were completely out of my control (I also offered to provide documentation) and I had alerted everyone immediately, I was told it didn’t matter the reason – any more and I’d be formally reprimanded, HR would be called, and I would be painted as a bad employee. My attendance has NEVER been an issue in the past. Other employees routinely call out sick and it’s no problem.

2 – My boss is AGGRESSIVELY pushing me to transition all of my responsibilities onto other staff members wayyy before my maternity leave is due to start, while simultaneously complaining that my health status is straining everyone else and putting too much work on them. I still have a few months to go, but I have been told I need to immediately give up some of my most important roles within the next couple of weeks. There is absolutely no reason for this and the other employees are not fully qualified to handle my work yet (which boss is fully aware of) – I suspect I am being forced to eliminate my own position so they can lay me off before mat leave. Boss has informed the other employees that they are taking over asap. I am being left out of meetings directly pertaining to my role that I would have definitely been invited to just a few months ago.

3- We have had repeated conversations where my boss flat out told me that my health is causing problems for everyone else and that I don’t care how it affects them. Any attempts to demonstrate how I have gone above and beyond to help out (including working unpaid hours) are dismissed. These are always sneaky private conversations, no witnesses. Boss has tremendous power and up until my pregnancy we had a great relationship– I don’t know if I could find a trust worthy witness to sit in on these conversations going forward. I don’t know if HR would even support me. At best they would support me only to avoid a lawsuit, but not out of actual concern for my situation.

In my experience, your guess on point number two is correct.

Talk to the attorney, and figure out a way to get laid off with generous severence.  Remember that you can buy health insurance directly, though it will be expensive.  Plan the best possible exit.

One solution could be to approach Boss and HR, outline you complaints, then offer to leave quietly without legal action for a normal severence package.  Your lawyer can pull together a letter offer to this effect.

There maybe other solutions but I think your gut guesses are right, at least for now, and not a pregnancy over reaction.  Boss probably thinks you are never coming back and feels betrayed after her support of you last year.  Not reasonable but people sometimes aren't.

cdttmm

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 250
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2015, 01:21:50 PM »
And don't worry too much about the health insurance.  They will have to offer you Cobra -- it's the law.  It may be more expensive than what you are paying now, or your husband's insurance, but it will cover you during any gap.

Yes, don't worry about the health insurance piece as they'll have to offer you the same exact coverage under COBRA, unless your company is smaller than 20 employees, but it doesn't sound like that is the case. And it should continue to cost you the same as what it costs you now, unless of course your employer is actually covering a percentage of the monthly premium, in which case you'd become responsible for that additional cost. The company can charge you a small fee (I think it's something like 2-3%) for administering the plan. The COBRA coverage should be available for 18 months so you'd have plenty of time to plan for a change to your husband's insurance.

And +1 to all the suggestions to talk to a employment lawyer.

Good luck!

Blonde Lawyer

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 735
    • My Student Loan Refi Story
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2015, 03:07:03 PM »
Regarding stress and pregnancy - I'm not a doctor but I have read and confirmed with one doctor that the maternal stress referred to in those studies about pre-term labor and low birth rate are not the type of stress we deal with in white collar environments in the US.  They mean stress in the sense of not enough food for the family, improper housing, fear for physical safety - basically, conditions in third world countries without proper government infrastructure.  While your type of stress certainly goes beyond normal work stress, you might feel a little better knowing that work stress isn't what those studies were talking about.  Running from zombies is more the type of stress referenced. Living in a war zone.  Being in a plane crash.

mustachianteacher

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 204
Re: Quality of life vs. long term financial goals - advice needed
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2015, 03:27:26 PM »
Glad to hear you've reached some kind of plateau with management and that now it's just a matter of coasting till the end. Even if you decide not to pursue legal action, at least you know where you stand, and you have options. I hope the remaining weeks are uneventful on the employment front!