My life has reached epic proportions of ironic in the last few weeks.
My Passive Aggressive Coworker is ready to give birth any moment now. Somehow it has fallen to me to plan, arrange and organize her work baby shower. Now I will admit that of late, we’ve been getting along better. She’s been making an effort to be a little more understanding and compassionate since I came out about my RA and I suspect her pregnancy related troubles (carpal tunnel, etc…) are softening her to my difficulties. All that said, we aren’t the best of friends. There is at least one person who should have jumped all over this experience to offer her workplace bestie a nice send off. So instead I get to pretend like I’m the caring coworker and throw all this nonsense together.
The better example of irony, however, is that I act as my company’s Return to Work Coordinator. It’s my job to create accommodation plans to allow people to gradually come back to work once they’re been injured. That is only mildly ironic…the true kick in the ovaries is that I am also responsible for researching, developing, and implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act including creating the company’s policy on accommodating employees.
In case you’re missing it – I asked for a workplace accommodation about a month ago from my boss verbally. No response. So last week I escalated it to an email request:
When we spoke previously about my illness and attendance here at work I mentioned the potential for and accommodation with the option to work from home on occasion as needed. As The Company doesn’t have an official accommodation procedure as of yet, I am hoping this email will be considered as a more formal request and a follow up to our discussion.
Having reviewed my attendance from January 1, 2012 until today I realise that I have taken 15 sick days; most of them unpaid sick days. I realise that this impacts the department tremendously; it has also had significant impact on me financially.
Working from home, only when needed, would benefit both The Company and me. It would allow me to be more productive and reduce the negative impact to the department and ease the financial impact on me. It would also reduce the amount of time I need trying to “catch up” after I have been away from work leaving me more time to take on other assignments. This is particularly important in the RTW Coordinator aspect of my role – there are things that need responses in a timely fashion and being able to provide a response as needed would help the process.
Through all of the challenges that I’ve had this year, I believe that I have maintained an exemplary standard of work and have always ‘produced’ while continuing to assume new responsibilities. I hope that if you have concerns about my work that you would let me know and I will work to improve them.
I have been making up the hours and time off I have been taking for my appointments and keeping track of it. To date, all my appointments have been made up through coming in early or staying late as needed. I try to schedule my appointments to lose the least amount of time from work but sometimes, because of doctors’ availability, this cannot be helped.
I am currently following all the medical advice that has been offered and working with my group of medical professionals towards remission but there are no guarantees and certainly no guarantees this will happen in a timely fashion.
There have been many days when I have come into work and pushed myself to be here to the detriment of my health because I can’t afford to lose anymore time from work and because, unintentionally, I feel pressured to do so. I do suffer quite a bit in silence. Pushing myself today mean I have less available tomorrow and the next day, which is why often at the end of the week I have virtually no energy left.
I realise that allowing me to work from home presents certain concerns/issues.
You voiced your concern about privacy with regards to having me work from home. I would certainly never take Company documents or files from the office to work on them from home but much of what I do in the course of a day can be done with access to my email and files from the HR and Benefits folders. I realise that this is sensitive information but it also the information I deal with daily.
I am also aware that this will set a precedent as far as accommodations are concerned and I expect that it will be monitored closely and reviewed as needed. I would obviously need to inform you as soon as possible when I will be working from home, the hours I will be working and figure out what happens if I do not work a full day while at home.
While there are quite a few details to work through I would appreciate if we could open the discussion to address this and certainly if you require more medical documentation to support this request I am happy to provide that.
Keeping in mind that email was sent over a week ago now. My boss continues to ignore it. Coming by frequently to make chit chat and ramble on about nonsense. Since then she has “promised” we would sit down and discuss it before it’s not as “simple” to accommodate as I think.
She rhymed off budgetary issues and other employees wanting the same “perk”, “just ’cause”. I threw back immediately that this request is not “just ’cause”.
I am trying not to let myself get bitter or frustrated or spiteful but dealing with my boss who seems to be hoping that I “forget” my request or end up in remission before they have to accommodate me, it makes me want to scream. I am the first person to admit that advocating for me is not my strong suit but I’m not sure how much clearer I need to be at this point.
My frustrations are compounded by instances like yesterday at lunch. I wasn’t feeling great with the weather that had rolled in and I really just wanted to sit and have a quite lunch alone. Instead I sat with my boss the PA Coworker and her replacement, the new girl. During lunch our boss expressed her deep concern for the PA Coworker’s pregnancy related carpal tunnel. Now I don’t have a problem with that at all – I express concern to her as well. Her hands and wrists are far more swollen looking than mine. My issue comes in when listening to my boss basically faun over her. The PA Coworker’s doctor has said the condition will most likely fix itself a few weeks after she gives birth. She’s not dying, it’s not a permanent condition and the only thing she’s been advised to do is wear a brace. So I listened to that and said nothing. Then as we were leaving the lunchroom together another employee thanked me for the pen I gave her this morning. I’d meant to order a large grip pen but I’d gotten the wrong one and it was a slim silver pen that was pretty useless. Probably didn’t cost more than ten dollars total. When I relayed the story to everyone my boss quipped that she would have to increase her supply budget because I was special ordering stationary. It was a little, flippant comment but it was upsetting.
The reason I have to order a large grip pen is that when holding a normal one to write – and yes, when I am working on trying to flesh out a policy or reading long documents I like to make handwritten notes – my hand starts to cramp severely in just a few minutes.
I am completely disengaged from work at the moment. I spend the majority of my time finding ways to accommodate other people at work and I can’t get the time of day.
Yes, I absolutely have legal avenues I could pursue if they deny me accommodation but so far there hasn’t been a “no” just a delay in response while my boss thinks about it.
From the Ontario Human Rights Commission website:
“The most appropriate accommodation must be identified and implemented short of undue hardship. Deciding what is and is not an appropriate accommodation is a separate analysis from an undue hardship analysis. An accommodation will be considered appropriate if it will result in equal opportunity to attain the same level of performance or to enjoy the same level of benefits and privileges experienced by others, or if it is proposed or adopted to achieve opportunity and meets the individual’s needs related to the relevant Code ground. The most appropriate accommodation will be the one that most promotes inclusion and full participation, and effectively addresses any systemic issues.”
Nothing I have asked for would come close to meeting the “undue hardship” standard anywhere. And if there is a more appropriate accommodation, I’m more than happy to discuss it but like I’ve said *crickets*
The chances are, I will not pursue any legal action or file a complaint ever because that’s not my style.
Take note, this is *not* how to treat your employees with a disability.