by MARIE SAAVEDRA
WFAA – News 8 – Dallas, TX
Posted on December 10, 2013 at 10:27 PM
LEWISVILLE — Isabel Martinez Gawalek is tortured by “what-ifs.”
If her daughter hadn’t gone to work, or crossed the icy bridge at Lewisville Lake, then 21-year-old Kayla Gawalek might still be here. Instead, she lost control of her car and went over the guardrail and into the water early Saturday morning. Gawalek lived in Lewisville, but worked in Denton. She was only a few months in to her new job in Denton.
Her sister Karla said Gawalek made it a point to be punctual. “Even with a 20-minute drive, she’d leave an hour-and-a-half earlier just to make sure she could get there on time,” Karla said. Galwalek told her family her company had a strict attendance policy. Her family fears the repercussions of missing work are what drove her out that treacherous morning. “That was a new job, and she loved that job,” Karla said. “It was better hours, better pay for her, better opportunities, and she would do anything to keep it… and that’s what put pressure on her.”
News 8 obtained a copy of the company’s Inclement Weather Policy, updated in September of this year, and a memo sent out to employees last week before the storm. We took that policy to Kimberly Houston, a Dallas employment attorney, who’s seen hundreds of similar documents — but few like this.
“It is pretty strict,” Houston said. “It doesn’t allow for an employee to use their personal judgment for safety or their own well-being, and typically you’ll see a policy that will allow that flexibility, really depending on what type of business the company was in.” The company’s policy states that no matter the conditions, its Denton facility would be open, and had she been anything but on time, Gawalek’s attendance reputation — and her sick time or paycheck — would have been docked.
“Based on the language I read, I don’t see much flexibility,” Houston said. So it may have been fear for her new job she loved that motivated Kayla Gawalek to go out Saturday morning. Her family hopes she serves as a reminder that no job is worth your life.
News 8 reached out to Gawalek’s employer throughout the day for comment on its policy, but did not get a reply regarding that issue.