EEOC anyone?

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by hugocfs, Dec 22, 2014.

  1. hugocfs

    hugocfs Member

    I returned to work part-time (2 hours per day) on November 1, 2013 and started 8 hours days on January 31st. Since then I have been gradually improving for which I feel truly blessed. However, little did I know the degree of hostility I would be facing at this point.

    When my star fell at work and I had to stop working, the stars of a husband and a wife at my place of employment rose in my stead. Even prior to my return to work, the hostility was starting. The husband said to at least one employee that he thought my boss's decision to let me return to work was wrong. There would be "too many cooks in the kitchen."

    Over the months as I began feeling better, the level of hostility has increased in direct proportion. The worst thing that has happened is that in October someone went through my briefcase on the only day I brought my bank statement and checkbook to work. Of course, I was upset at myself for being so trusting. A couple of weeks later another employee told me that the husband was unsympathetic. I asked what did that mean, not quite sure what the response was going to be since I wasn't exactly sympathetic towards myself. He told me that the husband said that he thought I was schizophrenic! I know I am not that because I never received that diagnosis, lol. I had to look it up on Wikipedia to find out precisely what he meant.

    Fortunately, these two individuals are willing to back up their accounts of what was said by the husband. Plus the husband has made a discrediting statement to my boss which he knows was incorrect, and I have some very hostile memos and emails from the wife. Also, I finally got my boss to concede that they clearly have an agenda. Up to this point, my boss has done nothing. But we are going to have a meeting probably next Monday when my boss is back in town. I am really dreading having to face both of them at once. I am thinking of trying to talk my boss into meeting with them one at a time rather than having a two-on-one situation. (And hopefully catching them in a lie in the process too.) Or else calling the whole thing off and getting an EEOC mediator involved. I have little confidence that my boss will give me much support in spite of him agreeing that they have an agenda. Generally his philosophy is that he doesn't care much if the employees are fighting as long as the work gets done. Plus I have heard the phrase "There are two sides to every story." come from his mouth too many times.

    Has anyone been in a similar situation after returning to work? Or has anyone had to call on the EEOC to mediate? Help! I have been having an anxiety attack for the last 12 hours. (There was another confrontation first thing this morning.)

    Btw, I think their agenda is to make life so stressful for me at work that I leave one way or another. And it is working. Bonus time is around March 1 and I am seriously considering hitting the send button on my resume as soon as the check clears. I would hate to leave after putting in 25+ years at the same place, but I can't take this much stress almost every day.

    Ps. The husband also said to 3 people at work that he knows my diagnosis since he figured it out on internet. And to think that I hired him 16 years ago. Backstabbing s.o.b. I was always on good terms with both of them prior my going out on disability. Clearly, their creation of a hostile work environment for me is related to my disability, which is against the law.
  2. Rabbitlady2

    Rabbitlady2 Member

    I can only tell you my experience with the EEOC in Illinois which has a contract with the Illinois Dept. of Human Rights to handle the cases. I had been diagnosed with FMS, was an anatomy and physiology professor at a community college, and had informed my supervisor of that fact. We had several sections of the same lab running each week with different teachers and a lab assistant was supposed to have all equipment and materials set up for us each time. There had been problems in the past but we finally got to the point where I didn't know if the lab would be set up properly, if I would have to go looking for the materials myself, looking for someone to help, or even have to go back up and down the stairs to make copies that were missing. All the time knowing I had 20 students waiting increasing my stress. I had previously given my supervisor a description of FMS which included the fact that stress would increase the symptoms. He would not correct the situation even in the face of a grievance filed by the faculty. He told me it was my fault because I was becoming irritable with the lab assistant. Of course, the pain and stress worsened my symptoms, including lack of sleep and irritability. He also told the Grievance Officer he was considering giving me an official reprimand. So I had my rheumatologist write a letter with my diagnosis to the Director of Human Resources and also included the fact that stress can worsen the symptoms. I filled out a formal request for accommodation and turned it in as well. I thought this would take care of it. I got a formal letter from the College in response to my request which said in part that they recognized that I "sincerely believed I was disabled", but because of my "obvious capabilities" I didn't qualify under ADA. (In other words my disability was invisible so didn't count.) They ignored the letter from my doctor on the basis that although she had listed the symptoms, and that stress worsened them she hadn't specified that was true for me.(?!)

    After several exchanges I filed a complaint with the IDHR which is automatically co-filed with the EEOC. After 15 years of service I was not prepared for the attacks on my character. Things became more and more unpleasant, I hired a lawyer, I had to be treated for depression, and had no choice but to resign. The IDHR found in favor of the College, saying things like "the investigators found that"- and then simply quoted the College's statements or its lawyers. What ended the case for them was that one of the 12 essentials listed for the faculty position is to: "Serve on teams and committees, and promote a collegial environment." Collegial in context having to do with shared decision making. However, despite the fact I argued that I had excellent evaluations, the College said since "irritability and uncontrolled anger" are among the symptoms for fibromyalgia it would be impossible for me to fulfill this essential requirement with the accommodation, so I didn't qualify for protection under ADA. Wouldn't you think having a job description which automatically excluded people with fibromyalgia would be illegal? But, the EEOC merely rubberstamps IDHR's decisions. I was still given the "right to sue" by the EEOC in 2009. I have done so at my own expense, unfortunately now stuck with a lawyer who is not competent. I doubt I can afford to appeal a decision by the judge based in part on the above. The College has won as far as they're concerned so are not willing to offer any decent settlement. I have been fighting my own battle as a matter of personal honor, and justice for others with similar disabilities, although this is the first time I've shared it in a public forum.
    Please understand I'm not just venting about my own situation in response to your question. I want you to
    realize what you may be getting yourself into. Before you take any steps you need to ask yourself some questions. If you go to the EEOC, what do you want from them? What is it you want your employer to do? As one of us with CFS or FM are you willing to have even more stress in your life? You have to decide if the battle itself is worth it.
  3. hugocfs

    hugocfs Member

    Dear Rab,

    We had the meetings on Monday. 1.5 hours with the husband in the AM and then 1.5 hours with the wife in the PM. I caught the husband in the lie. He claimed to not know my diagnosis. The wife said of course she told him. But my boss is not going to do anything to them that I am aware of. Hopefully my confronting them and fighting back will make them think twice before creating more hostility. Other than that there is not going to be any reprimand, verbal warning, demotion, or anything. It's such a long story that I won't bore you with the details. All I can say is that nepotism and mean people suck. And I am dealing with both.

    Thanks for sharing the details of your story. And I have come to the same conclusion. Going to the EEOC is a pretty drastic step surely not destined to endear me to my employer. Also, the wife is a real bitch. For the second time in the meeting, she insinuated that my actions have been motivated by race. So I could see them slapping me with a frivolous lawsuit that would cost me dearly to defend myself.

    All of this stress that has peaked in the last two weeks has started to take a toll on my health. My p.o.t.s. has definitely gotten worse. I'm going to have to start increasing the amount of atenolol I take, and as you may know, one of its side effects is fatigue. Last night I woke up 3 or 4 times from nightmares with my heart pounding.

    Of course, the atmosphere at work is still tense. It's just not a healthy environment for me to be working in. I'm just waiting for the next two months to pass by quickly (hopefully with no more major incidents), I pass GO and collect the bonus, and then move onto a greener pasture. Maybe it is all for the best. I love my occupation, but I sense the time to move on has come. Clearly they have won, but I have to survive. All of the stress is not worth it. When I leave, I'll make it known to my boss that I have had to leave because of them. That's about all I can do.

    Thanks again,
  4. Rabbitlady2

    Rabbitlady2 Member

    Dear Hugo,
    I understand your frustration. However, I would advise you to document everything - including what has happened so far and what happens until you leave - your interactions with them, and your discussions with your boss about the situation. It sounds like it would be hard to ignore them completely, but if you can avoid them or only interact with them in front of a witness or via email that would be best. You will then have some protection for yourself as well as evidence should something else occur. Also, document your accomplishments, service to the company, and evaluations, now, and as quietly as possible. I would have been in much worse shape if it hadn't been for all of the stuff I stored on my thumb drive before I left and was locked out of the system. Besides, you will need the latter for your resume as you look for that great new job. Write your letter of resignation to include your reason for leaving. It would be better to use the correct terms as relating to your disability and hostile environment, than to make it sound like a personality conflict. I did pay to have a lawyer review mine. Whether or not you take action, what if someone else with a disability encounters a problem, too? Your documentation could provide evidence of a pattern. That's a long shot I know, but I'm convinced employers aren't going to take this seriously until more cases come to court. (For an in depth look at the issue read, Disability Harassment by Mark C. Weber, N.Y. University Press, 2007. I have the Nook edition.) Finally, you're already a winner of one battle just by going back to work, in spite of your symptoms. If you obtain your goal of staying until you get that bonus, then you, not they, will have won this battle. too.
  5. hugocfs

    hugocfs Member

    Dear RL2,

    Just to update you, I am still working at the same place. And it is still not a good situation. But at least I got the bonus in early March (which was quite good) and I have a Skype job interview on Monday.

    I did fill out the EEOC intake form and sent it to them in late February. I took the option of talking with the EEOC first before filing a formal complaint. About 10 days ago, one of their representatives called me. It was a very unsatisfying 20 minute conversation, but at least now I know that filing a complaint with them is not really a viable option. It was immediately obvious that the EEOC rep had only skimmed over my intake form. Somehow she was under the impression that I had quit my job. Then I had to explain who the husband and wife were and the positions they hold even though this was clearly explained in what I wrote. She seemed to really zero in on the fact that the wife had in fact broken the ADA by disclosing my medical condition to her husband. As assistant director, she was in a need to know category, but he husband was not. She told me that I wouldn't get any money out of it. I told her I wasn't looking for money, just for some kind of warning, reprimand, demotion, or dismissal. She said that they don't that kind of thing. The only thing they would do was "fine" the company. And not in the sense, you might think. The "fine" would be requiring the company to provide the wife with training on the ADA. Then she pointed out that no one had actually witnessed her telling her husband. I told her that she admitted it in front of my boss. Then she said that the company would acquire legal advice and speak to my boss on what to say. I can imagine that he might conveniently forget her ever admitting that.

    Then she said that she didn't see how all of the harassment was related to my disability. I told her I have a coworker that would testify that the husband said that my boss's decision to allow me to return to work was wrong and that another coworker would testify that the husband said I was schizophrenic. She said that just might be a term he was using. At that point, I saw that continuing the conversation much longer would be unfruitful. So we finished up the discussion in the next couple of minutes.

    At this point, I could still file a complaint. In effect, the EEOC rep said my chances of success are limited, but every once in a while someone does tell the truth. I have up until late October to make a final decision. But in my mind, there is no sense in pursuing it.

    Also in mid-February, I had lunch with a trusted friend. He advised me to put my energies into looking for a new job and forget the EEOC. I asked him if I would get blacklisted in the industry if I did file a complaint with the EEOC. He said definitely.

    Wish me luck on my job interview next Monday.


    Ps. In case I don't have luck finding a new job because my diagnosis is now possibly known outside of the company, I met with my boss last week to discuss the situation again. I proposed a scenario where my work interaction with the husband and the wife could be basically ended. It would require hiring a new person (we need the help anyway). He seemed receptive, but he hadn't put in another headcount for this year's budget. So that would have to wait until very late this year at the earliest. So it's a possibility but nothing I can count on so I am still applying and sending out resumes.

    Pps. I am tired of documenting, tired of the constant conflict, and I just want out. When I leave, I am just going to say that I just don't seem to fit in any more since my return to work and leave it at that. Hopefully I can close the book on this fiasco and begin forgetting about the whole thing.

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