So if you have been following any of my post here or on my personal MS blog you will know that I recently moved to Colorado where I have been told there is a much higher incidence of Multiple Sclerosis than most the states. I thought this would work to my benefit in the workplace since more people should know what it is!
Well, I got a retail job in the blink of an eye towards the end of July and I immediately disclosed my MS during my interview. I know a lot of people have a hard time deciding if they should disclose it or not but for me it was easy. I didn’t want people to think I was showing up to work drunk and I wanted them to understand that if I push myself to hard it can greatly effect my health; I have limitations.
They assured me that my limitations could be accommodated for so I accepted the job. At first it was great; I worked in one department and it was a great pace for me. Soon after though, they started pushing me further and further till I was working all over the store while trying to manage my department and I was doing things that were not what I agreed to when I said yes to the job offer. I was now breaking a sweat! I didn’t complain though, I liked the challenge and I have always had the mentality that I will always keep up with the crowd despite my MS.
Eventually however, it was becoming too much for my body and it was affecting my health. I told our human resources guy in the store that I needed to cut my hours down to 32 a week and that if I kept pushing myself too hard I would start having health issues that would affect my ability to work and even my ability to come in. He said he understood and we reduced my max hours as well as stopped having me close one night and open the next morning. Sleep is really vital to my health.
So far so good right? Wrong. Now I am working less hours but they want more work out of me to pretty much make up for the days I am not working. You see, this store is unbelievably understaffed… they are desperate and can’t even hide it. I then started noticing subtle changes in how management talked to me and what they expected of me. It was becoming obvious that they thought that because I look just fine I must be capable of doing what everyone else can do. Over and over I try to explain that I can’t do something because of my MS but the look I get when I say this implies that they think I am just trying to weasel my way out of working.
Depending on the manager I am either treated like an idiot who is nothing more but a nuisance or I am treated like there is nothing wrong with me; I am just making excuses. The other day was horrible! No one would help me so I didn’t get my first break. Then one of the managers said it was up to me to take my brakes and lunch on time. I almost snapped! I was calling for help while I was swamped with customers and phone calls and no one responded. She said she did not hear me. I told her I was feeling like no one was taking my MS seriously because I look fine.
After that stressful day I had the day off and I was not feeling so great so by the end of the day I called in and explained what was going on and that I felt it would be dangerous for me to come in. I asked what I should do and she said she would just mark me as a no-show. At the time I was feeling horrible and my cognition was not so great so I said thanks and then realized she was marking me down as if I just didn’t show up for my shift! I had told her my MS was flaring up! Before I could say anything about it she hung up on me.
So maybe it’s not a perfect definition of discrimination but that’s how I feel; discriminated against. No one takes my MS seriously and no one really tries to help me when I need it even though I do everything I can to help them. I am sick of getting that look like they think I am full of crap when I start talking about my MS. Those accommodations they told me about? Poof, gone!
So I actually called corporate HR today to file an official complaint so that it is on record. I will start looking for a new job tomorrow that is less stressful, noisy, and hopefully more understanding of my MS. The National MS Society headquarters is 30 minutes away from where I am living, I want to contact them about a job so that I can feel like my hard work is making some sort of difference. So we will see, I just can’t handle the way they are treating me here anymore.
Have you dealt with discrimination in the workplace? How did you deal with it? What was the resolution if any? I feel like I have been made personally aware of a major issue that needs to be addressed!