A Startling Lack of Compassion

Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

Webster’s defines compassion as:

compassion \kəm-ˈpa-shən\, n.,
: sympathetic of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it

In yet another instance of corporate callousness, Claudia Rendon, a 41-year old mother from Philadelphia, was fired from her job at Aviation Institute of Maintenance after taking leave to donate a kidney to her son, Alex.  Kidney transplant surgery normally takes six to eight weeks recovery time.  Rendon had discussed taking unpaid leave from  July 19 to undergo the kidney transplant surgery on July 21 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and to return to her job on September 1.  She told ABC News that on her last day of work, her manager presented her with a letter to sign acknowledging that her job was not secure one hour after telling her that she would have her job upon her return.  On August 24, Rendon informed  Aviation Institute of Maintenance that she might not be able to return to work September 1 due to severe lower back pain; a common complication of such surgery.   Aviation Institute of Maintenance said they wanted a letter from the doctor.  The University of Pennsylvania hospital and her short-term disability provider each wrote letters to Rendon’s employer stating she would return to work Sept. 12.  Upon making a social visit to Aviation Institute of Maintenance on September 8, she found out her position had been filled by someone else on September 6.  Alex, who was a student at AIM, has also suffered repercussions of undergoing this lifesaving transplant.  The school is trying to collect $2,000 related to time he took off in addition to trying to charge him $150 to re-enroll. Did  Aviation Institute of Maintenance break the law?  Or are they just another example of a callous employer lacking in compassion?

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which would require the employer to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, does not apply because Aviation Institute of Maintenance has less than 50 employees.  Perhaps the Federal Americans With Disabilities Act or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act applies and may yet provide remedy.  The ADA would require her employer to provide “reasonable accommodation”  to the temporary disability caused by the surgery.  In this instance, it is quite reasonable to assert that the employers action should have been to hire a temp through a service to cover the 12 day gap.  The PHRA applies to all public and private employers in Pennsylvania with four or more employees and, although the language is not as clear as the ADA, does provides similar anti-discrimination protection in employment practices.  This is a matter for the courts to decide as their actions relate to both the ADA and the PHRA. The answer the question of whether the  Aviation Institute of Maintenance break the law is “maybe”. Any remedy may be mitigated by the fact that since receiving so much bad publicity over this matter, AIM has put Rendon back on salary pending a new opening. This does not mean she has her job back or will remain on payroll.

However, as to the question of whether or not AIM has acted in a callous manner lacking of any modicum of compassion, I think that is without question. They first agreed to hold her position then at the last minute and in an abundance of unfair bargaining position forced her to sign a letter releasing them from liability if they didn’t hold her position.  They failed to make a reasonable accommodation for her (and her son’s) recovery.  They attempted to compound the damage done by replacing Rendon by trying to collect money and fees from Alex during his recovery.

Aside from any remedy the courts can apply, do you think it is enough?  Should we as a society encourage consumers to not do business with companies that treat their employees badly?  Even if their bad actions as in the case of Cecelia Ingraham are not per se illegal?  What do you think?

Sources: ABC News, Huffington Post, Daily Mail

~Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

115 thoughts on “A Startling Lack of Compassion”

  1. Roco,

    Societies have life cycles just like any living thing – a capitalist system that was just started is very different than one like ours which has been around for a while – the canonical example of this to me is the auto industry in the second half of the 20th century. The mature American industry, saddled with retiree benefits and health care costs struggled to compete with the young Japanese industry which had neither. You obviously have no desire to try and understand what I’m saying, so I’m not going try and correct your egregious mistakes in interpreting my words other than to say that I’m advocating policies that would lead to the restoration and long-term health of the middle class and you’re advocating policies that would lead to its destruction.

    Look at any statistics that provide a metric for the health of the middle class – I’m guessing that they will all show a decline in size and vitality is occurring. The arguments I’m making provide reasonable hypotheses as to why this is happening – the arguments you’re making are hopelessly naive and lead to contradictions. You’re quick to talk about how I don’t understand the real world, but you’ve never come up with some real world (i.e. empirical) evidence which falsifies any of my arguments – you just attack me as being the stereotypical liberal that your naive mind can’t seem to look past while making straw men of my arguments so you can avoid challenging them on their merits (which is probably smart – none of your arguments have any merit to speak of…). In any case, you’re clearly so deluded as to the correctness of your thinking that you are unwilling to subject your own ideas to objective, critical scrutiny. Maybe you’d be better off if you gave up some of your real world confirmation bias for some of my ivory tower scientific objectivity… 😉

  2. Oh, God! “Who Moved My Cheese?”

    When I worked at Social Security, everybody was hired between 1972 and 1976. As we started hitting age 50, SSA’s retirement plan was to divide the work of the retiree among the remaining employees of that occupation. “Don’t come out of the conference room until you’ve divided Ed’s work.”

    The Regional Commissioner visited our office and asked “How many of you will be here in 10 years?” The three managers raised their hands.

    When he asked for closing questions, I reminded him that 24 hourly employees sat on their hands when asked “How many of you will be here in 10 years?” I added, “If you had followed that question with ‘Why not?’ and listened to the answers, some of us might have changed our minds.

    The Regional Commissioner said, “Well, you’re all turning 55, and we expect you to say ‘Well, it’s time to put the boat in the water’.”

    When I told my Manager I was retiring, I started with, ‘Well, it’s time to put the boat in the water’.”

    As the wave of retirements began in 2001, every SSA office in the country spent the same day watching “Who Moved My Cheese?” from 8:00 AM until 9:00 AM. The next day, we all watched a video of a psychologist telling us her opinion of what “Who Moved My Cheese?” meant.

    Our pointy-haired boss, I mean our Assistant Manager said, “As people retire, we don’t expect the rest of you to work harder, but we expect you to work smarter. A lady whose retirement date was looming said, “Nobody in this room, especially you, is getting any smarter than they already are!”

    (My SSA office went from 24 employees and 3 managers to 12 employees and 3 managers – none of whom worked for SSA before 2004. All 6 receptionists, who answered phones and manned the front counter, retired on the same day. The office now has 6 SS interviewers and 6 SSI interviewers. Each day, 6 of them ignore their pending claims to act as receptionist – the receptionists were never replaced. )

  3. Slarti:

    “(in a mature capitalist society, in any case)”

    How do you have a mature capitalist society? What does that even mean? Capitalism is dynamic with new products and services coming to market all the time and old products and services being displaced. Oil, railroads, aviation, DNA, computers each has created huge wealth for people and has created a middle class. It is only when an economy is not dynamic [socialist] that middle class wealth is destroyed or not even created.

    Do you think all that has been invented is it? and that no more innovation is going to occur? [innovation is harder in a socialist economy].

    If you had your way, we would still be using a horse and buggy because you wouldnt want to put the horse carriage manufacturers out of business. And how would a middle class be destroyed by prosperity? If you have plenty of jobs the price of labor rises.

    A good economy is better for the middle class than some dream of cradle to grave welfare and over reaching government regulations.

    You dont give a red rats rear end about the middle class, they are just tools to be used by you for the acquisition of power.

    When you and the other economic geneiooses figure it out let me know.

  4. Well, since 2007, private sector jobs decreased by .6% in Texas, while public sector employment (AKA government jobs) grew by 6.4%, much of that funded by the federal stimulus program. Exactly the opposite of what Perry claims. Texas is a national leader in one category: low-wage, low-benefit jobs. That’s just the kind of miracle that awaits credulous voters who can’t see past the slick, corporate funded advertisements to … reality.


  5. Gene,

    Nice villain laugh!

    People who don’t understand nuance suck – I offer the entire teahadi movement as an example.

    Now I’ve got to get back to my plans for world domination…


  6. Slarti,

    That’s the odd thing about laissez-faire. It’s a policy that seeks to make business activity ultra-legal. It fosters an environment that leads to fascism when consolidation of control is sought which in an anarchistic model like laissez-faire economics, it eventually will be sought. The primary difference between laissez-faire and fascism is the consolidated control. What Roco fails to comprehend that controlling certain market segments (like health care insurance) is not the same thing as a command economy (like the Soviets had). Free markets are fine for most things. Some segments, however, free markets are a detriment to society. The Scandinavians realize this and as such have a blended economy. Roco isn’t happy unless he can define things in extremist terms though. Nuance is lost on him.

  7. “The URL contained a malformed video ID” was the message I got when I clicked the link. If it’s a vid regarding Naked Lunch (one of my favorites) or any other Cronenberg project it’s a message that is cosmically apropos.

  8. Lotta,

    Not everything, but she sits in on all the reading for the world’s happiest preschooler. Which is quite a bit.

  9. Gyges,

    My love of stream of consciousness was lost somewhere in “the duration” of Gravity’s Rainbow…

  10. Gyges, It’s amazing how much reading can be done at both ends of the food thing, there’s a mini-library in every room of my house 🙂 Do you read out loud to the baby? A lady I know started reading out-loud to her son everything she read. starting when he was still an oven bun- he had a great vocabulary by the time he was ready for kindergarten and grew up to be a Stephen King fan, just like mommy.

  11. Slart,

    The movie (Which being a huge Cronenberg fan I love), takes up about 3 pages worth of text. To be honest, I only made it 2/3rds of the way through. I wouldn’t really call it a novel it’s more like a few hundred pages of stream of consciousness.

    I’m working under the assumption that it’s the equivalent of Berg. It might be REALLY freakin’ awesome if you know enough technical details to get what’s going on, but if you don’t….

  12. Gyges,

    When I said a government is a point on an axis I was making a simplification (which was the point of my map/territory comment above). You’re right – each government (and really each policy of each government) lives in a high-dimensional (maybe infinite-dimesional) metric space. If you could come up with a way to quantify the metric space and sort governments according to where they fall on groups of associated dimensions that define some sort of generalized axis (like capitalist/communist or socialist/fascist), then you could have a quantitative way to place governments (or policies) on the sort of diagram that I suggested. Which would be very helpful if you wanted to, say, model the impact of governmental philosophy on the economy. But when I talk like that people’s eyes tend to glaze over…

  13. Edit: “Which happens to be in…”


    For what it’s worth, I’m actually working on 3 books right now: The Omnivore’s Dilemma; Death of a Starship; and a music theory/arranging book for a sideline business I’m starting up. Usually I’m just reading two.

    Before you ask “Where do you find the time?” Let me just say, both ends of food consumption, in the bath, and feeding the baby.

  14. Roco,

    It’s dangerous whether or not we’re doing it (like playing Russian Roulette is dangerous [in general] even if you don’t have a gun to your head right now). And I don’t believe in the infallibility of the elite to control the economy – I believe that the economy is a dynamical system and will behave in the same ways that other dynamical systems do, I believe that unfettered capitalism tends to concentrate wealth and strangle the middle class (in a mature capitalist society, in any case…), I believe that we have seen a massive transfer of wealth to the top fraction of the population and that is manifestly unhealthy for our society, I believe that society is stronger if certain industries (like health care) are run for the public good rather than for a profit, and I believe that you are unwilling or unable to understand any of this.

    By the way, President Obama is NOT a liberal – he’s a centrist who’s policies have pretty much all been to the right of Nixon’s. You don’t realize how ignorant you sound when you don’t even know what sort of polices belong to what sort of political philosophies…


    Re Naked Lunch: I only saw the movie – admittedly not exactly sober… – but it seemed pretty weird to me… and not really Roco’s kind of thing. 😉

  15. Slart,

    Political philosophies aren’t a point on a line, they’re a location in multidimensional space with axes that include economic, social, and structural, issues (several in each category). Fascism and USSR style Socialism (which is what Roco usually seems to mean by Socialism) share several coordinates, and wildly differ on others. Of course, you can find common ground between any two political systems.

    For instance, I’m pretty sure most Americans wouldn’t find anything amiss with this statement, “State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved.” Which happens in the Doctrine of Fascism.

    The point being, if you limit yourself to one axis or another, you can claim with equal validity (depending on the axis you choose) that Socialism and Fascism are closely related or that they’re at opposite ends.

  16. Roco: ” the difference between fascism and socialism is very small as practised by the Nazis”

    What on earth are you talking about?

    For one difference instead of the chicken-in-every-pot socialist thing there was that Jew-in-every-oven Nazi thing.

    Maybe you are the one that needs to read a book instead of Gyges.

    From that old standby Wikipedia (which is easily as good as any other encyclopedia IMO):

    “Socialism /ˈsoʊʃəlɪzəm/ is an economic system in which the means of production are either state owned or commonly owned and controlled cooperatively; or a political philosophy advocating such a system.[1] As a form of social organization, socialism is based on co-operative social relations and self-management; relatively equal power-relations and the reduction or elimination of hierarchy in the management of economic and political affairs.”

    “Fascism ( /ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a radical, authoritarian nationalist political ideology.[1][2] It advocates the creation of a totalitarian single-party state that seeks the mass mobilization of a nation through indoctrination, physical education, and family policy (such as eugenics).[3]

    Fascists seek to purge forces, ideas, people, and systems deemed to be the cause of decadence and degeneration, and to produce their nation’s rebirth based on commitment to the national community based on organic unity, in which individuals are bound together by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood.[4] Fascists believe that a nation requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong.[5] Fascist governments forbid and suppress opposition to the state.

    …In economics, fascists oppose liberalism (as a bourgeois movement) and Marxism (as a proletarian movement) for being class-based movements.[19] Fascists present their ideology as that of an economically trans-class movement that promotes resolving economic class conflict to secure national solidarity.[20] They support a regulated, multi-class, integrated national economic system.[21] Fascist economics supports the existence of private property, the existence of a market economy and the use of the profit motive,[22] however state directed,[23] as they reject laissez-faire.”

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