My First Time Dealing With MS Discrimination

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!

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Comments

View Comments (15)
  • Patricia
    4 years ago

    @Matt Allen. I too was discriminated against related to MS. I am a RN. Worked with patients who had congestive heart failure. One Sunday, after being tired and not tolerating the heat of Florida, I became very dizzy, greatly fatigued and was driven home from church by my fiancé then who eventually dropped me for fear of me being a burden, I say. Sleep the rest of the day yet felt better to go to work the following Monday. Once at work, I mentioned my concerns to the cardiologist I worked for and since I worked at a VA hospital, and was/is a veteran, he felt he would order a MRI for me in case I had been experiencing TIA’s (Transcient Ischemic Attacks), small strokes. MRI came back suspicious. But moving forward, I eventually got diagnosed with MS. So, I told my supervisor. As a matter of facts I was relieved cause I had a name to my symptoms, thereby feeling I could manage it by getting rest etc. All I was doing was reading protocols for the patients and working the patients up to see the doctor. Lightest work I had ever done as a nurse. But my supervisor, who I told of my newly diagnosed ailment, also began to follow up behind me and speak to me as if I was a fluke, because I didn’t/don’t “look sick” either. I may be slow to move about and now after such a fight to maintain my career, I have lots of symptoms from MS, burning sensations, nightly restlessness, restless leg syndrome, headache and don’t fall asleep till about 4 a.m. each morning after getting in bed at about 10 p.m. I got diagnosed April 2006. I was verbally medically retired off my job and told that if I came back on the premises I would be escorted off. That frightened me. I went to Tampa Tribune newspaper and gave my story. I am a veteran. I must be seen on the premises. So to rap this up, my supervisor discriminated against me because she had a friend who needed a job and I happened to get diagnosed with MS just in time for her. She harassed me and then told others of my ailment. Violated my privacy after saying she had other charge nurses working there but they were not as bad as me. Yet they were in wheelchairs. No offense. We all have this differently. So yes I was discriminated against till she also called the licensing board and my license were suspended. I had just got my BSN and only had 2.5 years to work with it. I think I am still angry, but not as before. My last day was November 10, 2007. I graduated nursing school from Pacific Lutheran University December 2003, from Washington State and moved to Florida. Started working for the VA in 2004. I am online under the title “Is nurse with MS able to work? VA says no”. Good luck and we are still a special breed. 😉

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Wow, I hear that and all I can think is “lawsuit”…

  • Pamela Jacques
    4 years ago

    The job that I retired from/went out on disability was a second time around the lock for me. Please let me explain. When I was first diagnosed with MS in 1977 I was I working for the same company I did went out on disability, however, I did not work there all that time. It was fortunate for me that there was an open position when I was looking for a job. I was able to handle the job with no problem. The problem was getting up and down the steps after having “total knee joint replacement.” I worked from home for about 13 months then I decided it was tie for me to retire on disability. My doctors had wanted me to do this for a couple years since I was having trouble keeping my MS in check. I had no trouble getting Social Security, my doctors and the owner of the company I worked for signed the the papers. I was
    Diagnosed with MS in 1977 and this was in the late 1990’s. I have a positive ending to my story!!!

  • alchemie
    4 years ago

    All I can say is, if you are up for it- fight fight fight ’em. Which I’m probably going to have to do with my job soon, that is if I want to actually keep it. A little birdy told me that they wanted my position back at the downtown location, meaning: being a transport for kids. No way I could do that due to all my medical conditions. Besides, I have a 20 year old car that’s prone to break down anyway.

    However, like Charlo Greene recently did (reporter who dropped the F-bomb on air), I might end up doing it too. I’ve already thought about quitting before due to all the crap my co-workers and I have had to put up with in the past year from being forced into an entirely new unit and because of the big boss. Believe me- she doesn’t get it. And is only playing workplace politics.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    What I have learned over time, is that people fear others who are knowledgable. Doctors don’t like me because I know just as much (if not more) as they do about MS so now they have no “power” over me. When it comes to employment? I am going to learn all the Colorado employment laws as well as anything that has to do with “disabilities” in the work force that way if they try to pull some crap I can say “well according to state/federal law blah blah blah, you actually can’t do that and if you do you can expect a call from my lawer regarding a hefty lawsuit which will cost you a hell of a lot more money than you are “losing” with me, so I suggest you avoid all that and just work with me” lol… I hope it never comes to that but if it does I’ll be ready. THAT is why I can’t wait to “work for myself” as in, writing and speaking opportunities.

  • ReeRee
    4 years ago

    I informed my employer of my illness in 2012 and asked for accommodations that went unanswered. Since that date I have repeatedly asked for help in my department and continuously asked for accommodations. Long story short, one of my direct Supervisors plotted against me in December knowing she was loosing her position and hired someone to help me. But her plan back fired when the new employee realized she was a mole and addressed the entire board with a letter of such. She left, the supervisors term experied and the current board refused to address my accommodations. They left me no other choice but to file with the EEOC and ADA. My life has been miserable ever since they received notice from the EEOC. They have taken job duties away from me one at a time, causing major stress with ongoing exacerbations. My most recent exacerbation on 9/2/14, taken by ambulance to the ER, receiving treatment for numbness, no feeling on my right side and follow-up treatments, has me home awaiting short-term disability. I don’t have full use of my right arm, so much for being honest and expecting people to understand!

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    No, so much for “EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYERS”, so hard to find an employer who really does take that to heart it seems…

  • Jake
    4 years ago

    As a former manager for a huge retail corporation (in Colorado actually), I can say with certainty that you were intentionally being pushed beyond your disclosed limits in hoping you would quit. This is common for corporations to do in trying to get around ADA.

    I would strongly suggest contacting a disability attorney (somehow I graduated from law school even with my MS). If you decide to do so, please do it immediately.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Yeah, I got that feeling but things have turned around since HR stepped in. People are NICE and CHEERY now lol…. Someone got it trouble it seems!

  • Grandma5
    4 years ago

    I can identify with your situation. I worked for a hospital so I made the assumption that they would get it and realize what was going on, but I was so wrong. I asked to use the handicapped parking places but was told no. I contacted HR and they said I had to ask with the words that I am asking for an ADA accommodation. Finally I got that. When we were having a computer conversion whish required long hours I asked to take a day off so I could rest because I new the weekend was going to be long. Since I was salary I felt like since I would be working longer than my 40 hours they told me I would have to take a PTO day for Wed so in my stubbornness I worked Wed. Then on that Saturday I worked 16 hours and of course had a relapse. So I was then off for 6 weeks which they were unhappy about because they said they needed me. I realized that they really didn’t care about me or my MS (even tho I had worked there 20 years. After my relapse I was told to work half days and that didn’t happen so it took so long to recover. The thing that made me realize I needed to go on Long Term Disability was when they were after me about all the time I was taking off. If they had worked with me I probably wouldn’t have had to take as much time off. It was very heartbreaking because you want to think that your workplace values you even when things are not going the best but I guess I isn’t true. It worked out because the hospital had a long term policy that covers me until I’m 65 so that has sure helped.

  • ReeRee
    4 years ago

    I agree with Matt, it’s all about the money and personal gain. I no longer stayed late or came in early, so they made my life miserable and forced me out. Now having to go on short term disability……….. I know how you feel.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    What I am quickly learning is they care about money, not me. So I just word things like “I should probably call it a night or else I will probably relapse and have to call off which mean your loosing money and have no one to help you”. That seems to be working since our store is about 25 people short… 25….

  • Ann
    4 years ago

    I can totally identify with this article!! I work full time and I have the same job as I did before I got diagnosed. I just got diagnosed in November of last year. When I came back to work, everyone seemed glad to see me and it was all good but my boss at times has given me a hard time. It’s like she thinks that I am somewhat incapable of doing the same job that I have been doing for years. It is really annoying! I’m just glad that I’m not the only one that’s been discriminated against.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Yeah, on the flip side, I hate when I am treated like I CAN’T do something; ask if I can! Don’t assume!

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    And Leann, that is crap… But that is why I am making sure to be the best at my particular job, get the best numbers, and make sure customers like me (and they do; often asking to speak to a manager to let them know how much I helped them when others did not). I want to be sure that “they can’t afford to lose me” because I always prefer to hold all the cards whether I am dealing with a doctor, making a deal on a car, or now; working with an employer.

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