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Work/Life Balance, the NFL and Bereavement Leave....

Unfortunately, it's happened to all of us.  Loved one passes away, and we need to break away from work to be with the family.  Bad stuff.  The silver lining for you and I working in corporate America?  The support of our co-workers, companies and the time to take care of our family business via the concept of bereavement leave.

Bereavement leave is a given for most of us in working America.  Three (3) days off seems to be the standard in corporate America, and it's paid leave time in most employment handbooks, but not mandated by any law on the books.  It's a basic statement of work/life balance provided by your company.  Take care of your family and we'll see you when you get back.

Of course, from time to time I'm reminded that not all employees in the USA are afforded benefits many ofTroy_williamson us consider entitlements.  The Minnesota Vikings have docked wide receiver Troy Williamson one game check for missing the 11/4/07 game against the San Diego Chargers to attend the Monday funeral of his maternal grandmother.   From ESPN:

"Based on his 2007 salary of $435,000, the action by the Vikings will cost the three-year veteran $25,588. Williamson has 45 days to appeal Minnesota's decision to withhold his pay, and NFL Players Association sources said he will do so.

Coach Brad Childress told Twin Cities-area media following Thursday's practice that the decision was on a "business principle" of the Vikings organization.

"He had a family obligation that he had to see to," Childress said. "We sat down and talked on it before he left. ... He had to do what he had to do. Everybody handles that differently. [Williamson] had to do what his family situation called for."

Childress cited the cases of two players, Minnesota defensive tackle Pat Williams and Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who appeared in games shortly after the deaths of family members.

Williamson's maternal grandmother, who helped to raise him and with whom he was very close, died last week and he returned to South Carolina, where he played a large role in arranging her funeral. He also had to make travel arrangements for several of his siblings, some of whom are in the armed services. He returned to the team on Wednesday as the Vikings began practicing for this Sunday's game against Green Bay.

The team apparently apprised Williamson on Wednesday that he would not receive a paycheck for the game that he missed."

Nice, but not unexpected for those that follow the NFL.  Reaction has been harsh - read more here and here... 

Couple of notes to put the stance of the NFL into context.  First up, the NFL, unlike its pro sports counterparts in baseball, basketball and hockey, operates with relatively few performance dates.  16 games constitute the results for the regular season, and if a player misses one of those performance dates, he's lost 1/16 of his ability to contribute to the regular season results.  Few of us face the same pressure in taking bereavement leave for the year.  So the NFL is different from most workplaces in that regard.

Finally, the NFL has a collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association (the players union).  Bereavement leave, like 100s of other benefits and conditions of employment, is a negotiated topic.  To secure this benefit for the players, the NFLPA must bargain and then negotiate the benefit.  If they didn't do that on behalf of their membership, then that's part of the deal in being organized.  It's the NFLPA's responsibility, not the NFL's.

Still, it looks pretty bad on the front page.  Be interesting to see if the Vikings flip and pay him for the game.

UPDATE - The Vikings caved to public reaction and announced they would pay Williamson for the game missed.  Williamson immediately took the high ground and flanked their PR move by announcing he will donate the pay to charity.   



Thanks Kris - an interesting story.

Although it seemed harsh, I do have some empathy toward the initial stance of the Vikings in this regard. Players get paid for the games they play, not the games they don't.

However, I am glad that in the end they decided not to penalize him financially for attending to important family matters.

Whilst most companies treat employees fairly when it comes to bereavement leave, some employees, including my friend 'John', are subject to very poor treatment.

John had worked for in Australia for an investment bank, for more than ten years. Upon the death of his friend, John asked his employer for one afternoon off to attend the funeral.

His employer advised him that he had already used up his allocated bereavement leave and that the afternoon in question would be subtracted from his pay.

John was extremely dissapointed. For more than ten years, he had arrived at work at least thirty minutes early, taken only a thirty minute lunch break when he was allowed a full hour break, and left the office at least thirty minutes after close of business.

In all, John had given at least seven or eight hours of his own personal time (unpaid) to his employer every week. This was because he wanted to serve his employer dutifully and faithfully.

Despite this, his employer would not allow him one afternoon to attend a funeral.

Employers can be very short-sighted sometimes.



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