On the night of January 27, the Chicago forecast called for subzero temperatures the next day, with such high winds that it could feel like 30 below at the time when most students would be coming home from school. In light of that, Chicago Public Schools decided to close, saying “subzero temperatures and high winds will make it dangerous for children and families getting to and from school.”
Rhiannon Broschat, a single mother and a part-time Whole Foods worker, tried to find someone to watch her special needs son the next day but came up dry. So she called her supervisor and left a voicemail saying she wouldn’t be able to come in. “I did go back and forth, thinking maybe I should just leave him home alone,” she told ThinkProgress. But in the end, staying home “felt like that was my only option, I wanted to be home so he’s safe.”
The attendance policy for Whole Foods in the Midwest region is on a point system. While workers get some paid vacation days, for unexpected absences it differentiates between excused and unexcused: an excused absence is for an illness, which requires a doctor’s note, a death in the family, jury duty, and “catastrophic events or citywide weather disasters,” according to a company spokesperson. Each worker is also allowed five unexcused absences in a six-month period, and each one counts as a point against the worker. None of the days workers call out are paid.