Cancer-stricken teacher runs out of sick days - before strangers step in

Melissa Buttigieg
News Reporter

A US school teacher who ran out of paid sick days battling cancer was given a generous helping hand by colleagues who sacrificed their own leave entitlements to cover his time off for cancer treatment.

The history teacher shared a plea on social media, calling for other teachers to donate their leave entitlements as he exhausted his own sick days while undergoing surgery and chemotherapy for stage-three colon cancer.

Teacher Robert Goodman ran out of paid sick days battling cancer, so he called on colleagues to donate their leave to give him more time to recover from chemo. Source: Robert Goodman / Facebook

Robert Goodman, from Florida, shared a selfie on Facebook late last month from a medical centre, showing him receiving chemotherapy drugs dripped through a catheter.

The educator estimated he would need at least 20 more paid sick days as he recovered from his course of chemotherapy and called for others to chip in some of their own leave.

In his call for “urgent help”, Mr Goodman said he had already used 38 sick days this year, which is all the teacher had accrued from previous years of employment. 

“If I can get 20 more sick days from any teacher or district employee volunteers that would allow me to take more time to recover in battle through chemo for 12 weeks which should be enough time for me to complete at least the treatment,” he added. 

In just four days strangers donated enough additional days to cover an entire semester to allow Mr Goodman to recover without the loss of income becoming an additional worry.

Fellow teachers, school staff members, administrators and even lunchroom workers from all over the country transferred 75 sick days to Mr Goodman in a matter of days.

“I wasn’t surprised that teachers were giving. Teachers are always giving all the time,” he told CNN.

“When one of their own needs help they’ll always step up.”

“I felt guilty because I knew there were people who had it much worse than me.”

In a follow-up Facebook post, Mr Goodman wrote: “I want to thank all of you for supporting me by donating sick days and words of encouragement it’s proof that love is contagious.”

One of the history teacher’s selfies as he is hooked up to chemo drugs to fight stage three colon cancer. Source: Robert Goodman / Facebook

Can leave be transferred in Australia?

The US allows workers to donate their leave to another employee who has a personal or family medical emergency and has used up all of their paid leave under the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program.

In 2014, France changed its employment laws to allow workers to anonymously donate their annual leave to colleagues who need time off to look after seriously ill children.

But under current Australian laws donating sick leave to colleagues is not permitted as employers are lawfully required to provide their employees with a minimum amount of leave.

A Fair Work Ombudsman spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo7 there was no capacity to transfer one employee’s personal or carer’s leave to another employee in Australia.