Unemployment diary: I’m a 26-year-old registered dietitian in Michigan who was furloughed in early April

Erin Zettell

Summary List Placement

I’ve been a registered dietitian at St. Joseph Mercy Health System and Michigan Heart since April 2019. I worked with three other dietitians across three intensive cardiac rehab sites, teaching cooking classes, nutrition workshops, and meeting with patients one on one throughout the week. It’s a very comprehensive program, and I genuinely enjoyed my role there.

Still, even before COVID-19, I wasn’t feeling confident in leadership at work.

After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan on March 10, our cardiac rehab facilities were closed the following Tuesday. 

The other dietitians and I weren’t allowed to work remotely, even though there were plenty of tasks, like creating grocery guides, that we could do from home. We either had to come into the hospital to clock in, or we had to stay home and take PTO. I felt like that was a real double standard to have to choose between my health and safety and getting paid. I live with my boyfriend, who’s immunocompromised, so I couldn’t go in. Three weeks passed of me using PTO, and then all the staff was furloughed April 9.

I was on furlough for three months and didn’t hear a single thing from my employer.

My colleagues and I all were quite frustrated, feeling like we were lost without any direction. Nobody reached out to see how we were doing. It just confirmed how undervalued and undersupported I felt as a young, female professional. 

I applied for unemployment on April 2, when my PTO was gone. The system kept crashing as I was trying to file. I didn’t hear anything for a month and of course, I couldn’t get through on the phone. Every time I logged on, it said my claim was still processing. I was up north, quarantining with my boyfriend’s family during April, and when I got back the first week of May, there was a letter sent to my address saying that I didn’t provide my alien identification number. They misfiled me as an undocumented immigrant. I just burst into tears because it felt like such an uphill battle. I had to go to a local FedEx, fax in documentation, and speak with two different agents after being on hold with the UIA (Unemployment Insurance Agency) for hours before I could file my claim. I was finally paid all that I was owed in July.

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My furlough ended July 11 and I got a call to replace the full-time dietitian who left. It’s been an absolute disaster since I’ve gotten back. There’s no oversight about safety. It seems like we’re just pushing the business, getting people enrolled in the program as quickly as possible. Patients are exercising on equipment, going to cooking school, and doing yoga. The colleague I replaced was on salary while I was being paid an hourly rate, and the organization wouldn’t even make up that pay gap, which amounts to $3,400 a year. The yoga therapists are paid twice as much as me.

I’ve been so depressed.

Especially since George Floyd …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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