If anybody thinks the question of emergency medical leave has been settled, they should consult Melissa Miles.
The 13-year employee of this week's Rogue, Wal-Mart, had a troubling run-in with her now ex-employer that left her canned from a $13-an-hour job as a deputy manager for the retailer. On July 20, docs diagnosed Miles' husband, Jamie, with a leaky heart valve and an aneurysm on his aorta, requiring immediate surgery. Miles put in for three weeks of emergency medical leave at the Wal-Mart in Dallas, west of Salem, to care for her husband and their 4-year-old autistic son, Alex.
On Aug. 4, she says she asked her manager about the status of her leave and was angrily told, "That's just not going to work." The same day, she says another manager reprimanded her for having "serious attitude" after Miles accidentally knocked over a ladder. The next day she was fired.
Miles believes she angered management by asking for time off. And a co-worker, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of losing her own job by speaking out, shares Miles' suspicions. The co-worker recalls noticing "that management was being really short with her." And though Miles was clearly stressed by her husband's condition, the co-worker says, "I never saw her slip up or anything."
Luckily for Miles, her husband—a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians—receives health care through tribal insurance and had his successful Aug. 12 open-heart surgery covered.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Michelle Bradford says Miles "was terminated for reasons not related to leave," and that the company grants thousands of family medical leaves each year.
Miles disagrees and is now out of work. She is caring for her husband, who can't work again as a highway flagger because of the side effects of medication for his new mechanical heart valve. "I was the only income," says Miles, "and they knew that."