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Caregiving in the Gig Economy

I've recently decided to leave a job I enjoy and am good at. My employer, a Fortune 100 company that prides itself on inclusion and diversity in the work place, has called in all remote workers to co-locate with other employees in one of a handful of designated offices. All of the choices would require me to move us to a new state. None but a fraction of the employees I would be co-located with in any of the offices would be on my team. For all intents and purposes I would be in an office but still be working remotely as I've done my entire tenure with the firm. And my husband's life would be thrown into disarray.

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My request for an exception on the basis of my husband's disability and my status as full time caregiver was denied. This despite presenting a business case and strong performance record that illustrated a win-win for both of us if flexibility could be granted. Only if the disability were mine, so went the legally crafted denial. There were only four criteria for exception, and caregiver was not one of them.

Our accessible home and carefully built support system that enabled me to be a dedicated employee would need to be rebuilt, so in response to my request the company thought it generously offered me moving expenses and a two-month extension to accomplish what took me over five years and deep ties to our friends and local community to do. In the words of our HR representative, the two months were offered "to give me the time I needed to make us both comfortable."

While my employer and every other company in the United States is well within its legal rights to deny caregivers flexible work options, it does fly in the face of EEOC guidance for employer best practices for workers with caregiver responsibilities. A few keyword searches on the Internet will reveal numerous articles validating my point of view that intolerance of the special needs of caregivers is tantamount to intolerance of handicapped people. Caregivers are to a large degree handicapped by proxy. And we need them in the workforce because they span generations, from Millenials to GenXers to Baby Boomers.

My initial response to all this was to go through the typical five stages of grief: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I'm not sure the stages are linear, because I do find myself going a little bit back and forth, but the net of it is I have decided this new crisis is going to be a blessing in disguise. I am going to go back into business with Bob and hang out my shingle, specializing in product marketing services to the healthcare IT sector. Check us out at Oh, and remember: Semper avanti.

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