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Workplace discrimination (lonnnnnnnng)

Posted by Bob on November 7, 1999, at 16:13:19

In reply to Depression in the workplace, posted by Jen on November 7, 1999, at 4:48:13

Gee, Noa, how'd you know I'd chime in? =^P

Jen, it's time to lace up the steel-toed boots.

I'm dealing with considerable harrassment on this sort of thing right now -- have been for over the last year. So yeah, I do have a lot of things on the topic. As it is, my meds have me in a place psychologically where I am very stable, very assertive, and confident to the point of arrogance (tho I keep my lips tight about that at work;^). Keep that in mind when you read what I have to say, since it certainly does influence how I've approached matters.

Issue #1: Refuse to be a victim.
You're husband is ill. He needs treatment. It could be comparable to the flu or to epilepsy (see point 2), but either way it's treatable. His boss, on the other hand, is acting bigotted (describe behaviors that can change, not traits that are stable). He needs to be handle firmly and assertively. He's wrong, and he needs to be educated as to why he is wrong. But his judgment about your husband's performance is essentially flawed by his stereotypic beliefs and is not to be trusted.

Issue #2: see a psychiatrist.
You say your husband has been suffering from stress/depression for a few months now. It's time for both of you to be completely, even brutally, honest with yourselves. Is it truly just for "a few months"? Something acute and situational, tied to some recent event in his life that threw him for a loop? If so, the Supreme Court recently made a ruling that such acute "disorders" that are easily treatable by medication or other therapies and tend to be resolved resonably quickly do NOT qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. On the other hand, are these symptoms of a long-standing, chronic disorder that he can no longer manage on his own? Once he starts treatment, is he going to need to stay on treatment for the forseeable future (and even beyond)? The persistence of such a disorder and the inability of treatment to totally alleviate it WILL qualify for protection under the ADA. So, get to a pro -- have your GP recommend a psychiatrist for a proper, full diagnosis. Be prepared for meds, for talk therapy (with perhaps someone else; a psychologist or social worker, as many psychiatrists specialize in the medication end of the business), and for being labelled. The label may be a source of shame or no big deal, but it is something you'll be able to wield like a weapon and shield against the irresponsible behavior of the Boss.

Issue #3: fully research your benefits.
This should actually be something you do before seeing the psychiatrist -- it will help your pdoc advise you in the decisions you'll need to make. What is your out-patient psychiatric coverage? In-patient coverage? What disability benefits does he have, and how long will it take before they kick in? If he needs time off, he should probably take it as disability leave -- there should be some protections in terms of returning to his old job (this is one area I'm not up on). As Noa said, if he needs to take some time off, then he should use it productively. Becoming a bedslug or moldy couch potato won't help one bit. Schedule every day, focus on activities that would be healing. I know that if I was in a place where I needed to take disability (and I've almost been there recently), I'd schedule my time to be out of my apartment as much as possible -- catching up on my photography hobby, volunteering, and spending some time in parks or cafes just taking time away from everything, allowing myself to decompress, and keeping a journal to document any changes in my feelings.

Taking that time off from the job should be considered very carefully. Given what Mr. Boss has said, I'd start considering the situation as hostile and start doing everything I could to "subvert" it. Unlike what JohnL has to say, I'd say if he's going to work, then he should focus on doing his best work every right now and not just enough to get by. If Mr. Boss has some job action cooking up his sleeve, you will want the preponderance of evidence to completely undermine anything Mr. Boss complains about. Demonstrate that not only are his judgments about your husband's condition discriminatory and unreasonable, but that his performance as a supervisor is clearly influenced by his biases. On your side, cooperate and follow along as much as possible. I'm not saying that your husband needs to be a yes-man. I've complied with the actions required of me, even though they are clearly discriminatory, solely to demonstrate I am being reasonable. At the same time, I have submitted written protests for my work file stating my objections and how they are in fact discriminatory. The key, as I understand it from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as to what is discriminatory relates to (a) how much a job action refers to an employee's disorder and (b) how specific or uncommon the action is compared to what is normally done with below-average workers. For me, this meant my Boss and HR director (1) devised an evaluation process specifically for me, (2) documented nowhere in company policy and, in fact, contradictory to aspects of company policy, and (3) all in response to me asking that "reasonable accommodations" be made for me due to my disorder. Three strikes -- I'm in the process of taking it to the umpire right now.

Issue #4-- document, document, document
Get it all in writing. Tape meetings. Keep copies of all the papers you submit to your employer. Again, you're not in Kansas anymore ... more like shark-infested waters. Assume his boss is preparing to make take unreasonable actions, and be prepared to slam dunk him when it happens.

Issue #5 -- get educated
At, you will find five PDF files (named nami1 to nami5.pdf) that have useful information from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Read it. Know what your husband's rights are under the law, and impress them upon his Boss. Even give Boss copies, so that you can say you tried to educate him about these issues. Contact your local NAMI affiliate (you can find this person at their website -- and find out where your local EEOC office is. Get educated about the complaint process. If something happens, you just can't go out and sue under the ADA. There is a specific process that must be followed, including trying all internal remedies before involving the EEOC. So, who can your husband go to inside your company to help mediate a dispute with his boss? Hopefully, he'll have a better experience than mine (my human resources director sees us as resources to be mined and abandoned when spent, not humans in need of employment services).

Issue #6 -- put your finances in order.
If your husband does go on disability and there is a lag before benefits kick in, can you afford it? Alternately, if things deteriorate at work, what's your husband's plan to bail? Workers in general right now are lucky -- there are too many jobs and not enough candidates. If he does take even a few days off, he should seriously consider updating his resume and pounding the pavement. In many fields, he may find a better job relatively easily. It all depends, of course, on the nature of his work. For me, I am going into the EEOC (it's taken me six months, but I have exhausted all internal options to remedy my situation) with the knowledge that I have my choice of jobs with two different employers, both of which will probably mean a 35-40% raise for me, as soon as I am ready to leave (which will be January 3 ... I have my timetable down quite exactly). This sort of knowledge, which of course I am withholding and even hiding from my employer (in terms of still making long-term plans and goals with my Boss past January), can give you one helluva lot more backbone.

Issue #last -- don't be selfish (better motives)
Like you said, Jen, this is so damnably frustrating to deal with ... we're supposed to be an enlightened society after all. But depression is an invisible disability. We have no physical deformations (other than wrist scars, chewed nails, pulled out hair ... all things we try to hide if we have them), our voices, hearing, and sight all seem fine. There's nothing about us that, if you put us in a line-up with a groups of "normals", would clue you in on our disorders. It makes us all that much more difficult to believe, not even taking into consideration cultural biases, stereotypes, and stigmas. The worse this fight will get, the more you'll just want to kick some serious ass. But if your husband is a Star Trek fan, remind him of the Klingon proverb that revenge is a dish best served cold. This is no time to be hot-headed. It is a time to be cold, reasoned, and calculating, making sure you cover each and every base. And once you are in the position to take action, remember this: there are many people out there, even out here on this board, who do not have the support or resources to do what you and your husband can do together. That is the biggest message I have gotten in my previous workplace discrimination threads -- that what I have the energy and the spit to do in my situation is encouraging to others in the same position. I also know from the statistics on depression that at least three other people at my company (probably more, given the nature of our work) have the potential to be in my shoes tomorrow, or may already be there. What I am doing to correct the errors of my employer will benefit all of my silent coworkers. All my desires for revenge pale against that consideration.

Time to get off the soap box ... that's my story, and I'm sticking to it! I hope that helps, Jen. Tell your husband to stop on by ... he's more than welcome. What he is going through is nothing to be ashamed of ... most of us here have been in comparable situations, I'm sure, have felt the shame, and can tell you both from experience that it just isn't deserved.

All my best to both of you,




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