When it rains, it pours. Oh the irony

Letter from HR to my union. My notes in italicized bold type

‘Please note, Angela has since put in a request for a medical leave of absence, beginning May 1, 2018 for one or two months. We will need to address this request separately.

(And yet here it is)

1. What is your specific concern with regards to staffing the program?

This program is designed to provide in classroom support for the students and the staff. That requires that a staff person is available for the entirety of the time in class for the days on which class is scheduled. In other words our employee schedule is depending on the school calendar and timelines. In short, 5 days a week/for any days the school is open. Holiday, vacation and other time off are to be scheduled in accordance with the school calendar, as outlined in our Policies and Procedures.

When an employee is unable to attend class 5 days a week, employer has an on call roster of employees that can fill in on short notice, however, this backup process is intended to manage one off absences, not a continuous number of them.

In Angela’s case, as you will see, her absenteeism has resulted in a significant drain on our on call roster resources.

(There has been no coverage for the bulk of this year so how could their possibly be a drain on resources?)

2. What particularly has the impact been on the program on account of Angela’s absences?

The impact of Angela’s significant absenteeism has been many. On the front end there has been the impact as described above on the drain on our limited on call resources to fill the day in the event of an absence. Secondly, the point of the program is to provide on-site support to the staff at the school and to support and provide monitoring to the students in the program. Absenteeism means that the on-site support to the staff and the student support and monitoring don’t happen, leaving the on-site staff with more to manage, when coverage is not available, putting a strain on school resources as well.

Additionally, as the Counsellor for this program, Angela is expected to develop a rapport and relationship with the students and their family on-site in the school environment. If she is not able to be in class regularly it is difficult to establish, develop and maintain solid relationships. Finally, we have been approached by the school and program supervisors, clearly indicating that her absenteeism has been a strain in their staff and the program and cannot continue.

If employer cannot manage the situation, we could potentially be at risk of losing the program, and the funding, resulting in layoffs.

(I’ve been repeatedly told by my direct supervisor and collaterals that my ability to build rapport and engagement with these youth is superior bar none. That seems very contradictory given the above statements. Furthermore could it be that school admin is upset as a result of being notified about my absences when they have never been in the past?)

4. You’ve remarked on Angela’s level of absence from work over the past two years, yet there has been no acknowledgment from you of the fact that she was on a modified work schedule during most of that time; please substantiate these statements you have made with detailed analysis of absences for the last two years, as we would like to see a comprehensive listing please.

I have appended a summary of Angela’s attendance records for 2016, 2017, and 2018, plus some brief notes on her reduced work for 2015.

You will note that even when on an accommodated reduced hours work schedule, which we acknowledged, Angela has demonstrated that she has not been able to attend work for 5 days a week with any consistency, such as to address the issues that have arisen as a result of the significant amount of time off.

I trust this provides sufficient background and information to understand our position requesting medical as it relates to Angela’s ability to attend work 5 days a week to meet the requirements of the program.

(‘Even while on a accommodated work schedule Angela has demonstrated that she has not been able to attend work for 5 days a week’ . Does anyone else see the pure ridiculousness of this comment? As that would have been the point of needing the accommodation no???)

 

I look forward to your response and the medical that has been requested.’

What an awesome and unusual way to hit me while I’m down. 👍🏼

And I feel super supported not at all stressed, embarrassed and I definitely don’t feel like this is contributing to my extraordinarily shitty health at the moment!! Thanks!

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What about my right to ask for accommodation when I feel I need it?

Email from employer:

Your email does not address the essential point of my February 22 email to you, which was a request for medical information. I believe my email to you was quite clear in advising you that BLANK requires medical information from your physician, not only so we can determine whether BLANK can take any steps to accommodate your situation, but also because BLANK requires the medical information so that we can understand whether you are going to be capable of regular full-time attendance in the future. Your email states that you have not requested an accommodation. Nevertheless, and even in the absence of a formal request for accommodation from you, BLANK has a duty to accommodate any employee with a disability. We are trying to do so, and that is one of the reasons we are requesting medical information, along with a secondary reason for the medical information, so that we can assess our ability to adequately staff the Section 23 program and meet our program obligations.

Whether you have specifically and formally requested an accommodation from BLANK or not , the fact remains that BLANK is entitled to have medical information from you to justify your pattern of absence from work. Furthermore, while you have not formally requested an accommodation, you have done so indirectly by , in essence, requesting that you be allowed to continue to maintain your full time position, when you have a two year pattern of less than regular full time attendance .

As I mentioned in my February 22, 2018 email to you, we acknowledge that we did receive a medical note from Dr. dated February 8, 2018. However, as I mentioned previously, it appears from His medical note that Dr. may not be aware of the extent and frequency of your absences.

It’s is BLANK view that Dr. has not correctly characterized your current ability for full-time work. Dr. states that, generally, you are capable of full-time work with regular duties. However, your attendance record has not demonstrated this. Instead, over the past two years and two months, you have been capable of only irregular attendance, working an average of four days per week. Full-time work is five days per week and your attendance record demonstrates that you have not been capable of full-time work. As mentioned above, we do understand as advised by you, this is due to your medical condition. Your doctor’s opinion that you are generally capable of full-time work is not consistent with your pattern of absence.

In any event, the medical you provided dated February 8, 2018 does not provide BLANK with sufficient information for us to assess whether you will be capable of regular full time attendance in the future, and what your prognosis might be. Therefore, we request that you return to Dr. for a follow up appointment and specifically obtain the following medical information in written form from Dr. and then provide it to us:

1. A description of any medical, physical or other restrictions which may result from your medical condition and which may impact on your ability to perform your job duties and attend work on a regular, full-time basis, meaning five days per week. (Please note that we are not asking for any diagnosis or details of your medical condition, other than as they relate to any restrictions it may have on your ability to perform your workplace duties and ability to attend work regularly.);

2. A prognosis from your physician as to the likelihood that your medical condition might improve, such that any current restrictions and/or modifications might not be required in the future, or may be required to a lesser degree;

3. A prognosis from your physician as to the likelihood of your ability to achieve regular, full-time workplace attendance (i.e. five days per week as opposed to your current average of four days per week) in the reasonably foreseeable future;

4. Alternatively, if your physician determines that it is unlikely that you will be able to achieve regular, full-time attendance in the reasonably foreseeable future, whether it is also likely that your attendance will tend to decline in the reasonably foreseeable future; and

5. Any suggested accommodations or recommendations your doctor may have for BLANK to allow us to better accommodate your situation.

Angela, please note that we require the above information from your physician so that we may assess your workplace restrictions, needs and any requirements for accommodation, as well as our ability to ensure that we meet program needs, which are five days per week.”

You have stated that you are unclear about what BLANK is trying to achieve by highlighting your absences from two years ago.

Let me try to clarify . What we are trying to achieve is to obtain an understanding from your physician about your pattern of absences, and in particular we are trying to determine whether you will be capable of regular full-time attendance in the foreseeable future. That is why we have requested that you provide to your physician a copy of my February 22 email, so that your physician can answer the five questions BLANK has asked, as well as complete the form we have delivered to you. To repeat, BLANK requires this medical information from your doctor so that we can understand any accommodation issues or obligations BLANK may have toward you, AND ALSO so that we may understand whether you will be capable of regular full-time attendance in the foreseeable future. BLANK is entitled to that information and you are contractually obligated to provide it.

We have referred to your absence pattern for the past two years because it is a critical fact in our decision-making processes. Review of your attendance records, has identified that over the past two years, you have been unable to attend work 5 days a week consistently. BLANK has a right to expect that its employees attend work on a full-time basis regularly. Your record demonstrates that you have been unable to do so, and you are therefore not in compliance with your contractual employment obligations. As I mentioned in my last email, however, BLANK does understand that you have a medical condition which is preventing you from regular full-time attendance, as you identified in our meeting in January 2018. We are not faulting you. Nevertheless, BLANK is entitled to know whether this absence pattern is going to continue, or whether it will improve or get worse. We need this medical information to assess our staffing and meet our program needs. Currently, your attendance pattern is negatively impacting AYSP’s ability to meet its program requirements.

After we receive the requested information from your physician, BLANK will review it, and BLANK will then be in a better position to understand the likelihood that you will be capable of regular full-time attendance in the foreseeable future, or not, and we will also be in a better position to assess our staffing needs in order to meet our program requirements.

I requested in my February 22 email, further medical, which you have yet to provide. Please re-attend at your physician as soon as possible and obtain in written form, the medical information we have requested. Please advise me when your next scheduled medical appointment is so that I may have an understanding of when BLANK can expect to receive the requested medical information.

I trust that the above information, together with my email to you of February 22, 2018, have clarified BLANK position, and has explained why we are requesting medical information. We look forward to receiving that medical information as soon as possible.

Finally, we are sorry that you are feeling stressed. However, I can assure you that we have no intention to pressure or discriminate against or harass you. We do not feel it is pressure, discrimination or harassment to require that you provide us with medical information that you have a contractual obligation to provide.

That last part just feels like a slap in the face.

Weapons of mass imperfection

Over the years many people have assumed that the reason I excel as a youth worker is because I’ve retained some of that youthful rebelliousness. However, in truth it has nothing to do with my rebellious adolescence, instead it has everything to do with the fact that like so many of the teenagers I counsel these days, I often felt like I didn’t fit into the world. I felt like I didn’t have a place, or that I just didn’t belong. I have since learned that it was more than simple teenage angst. And I never felt more that way than when I was forced to change my outward appearance. It felt foreign and just plain weird, I felt like the outside just wouldn’t match the inside. I remember my parents telling me that it would be easier if I just changed my outside…that my life would be easier. I remember wanting to have it be easier, but not at the expense of my sense of self.

My high school years were especially tumultuous, as they are for so many others, I didn’t fit the mold of the Catholic all-girls school I went to. I got into unnecessary trouble and was constantly consequenced at the expense of my academics. I feuded with my parents on so many things that seem so trivial now. In public, society was cruel and unrelenting and yet I held a secret power. Unlike so many people who were bullied mercilessly for way more minor differences, my power was in my inability to feel intimidated by the taunts and mean words. It was the inner strength that allowed me to carry that power with me in all the different settings. And instead of submitting to the people who mocked me for my differences, I fucking fought back. I wore my differences like armor. Through my heavily lined eyes, I could see through all the bullshit and the chatter and I knew that it was NEVER a reflection of me. No, it was a reflection of the fear those people had of being thought of as ‘different’.

I was born without any outward noticeable differences, and yes I’ve chosen to mark my body with art and other modifications and express myself through changes to my hair or whatever, however it never really felt like a ‘choice’ in the straightforward sense of the word. Unlike the definition below:

‘CHOICE’: an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.

In that definition, it indicates that a person has a choice to make when met with two or more options, but sometimes, it does not feel like a choice at all. It feels like you cannot breathe if you don’t make that one decision. It feels like you’ll fade away, or suffocate or lose yourself if you don’t make that one decision.
As I look back at the period of my life from adolescence until now, I can clearly see how those struggles impacted me. I’ve realized that through fighting for the right to be myself, I have developed a strong sense of self. Sometimes I wish the battles hadn’t have been so painful, and that I didn’t have to fight so damn hard. But maybe through those battles, I realized how important my convictions were to me. I realized how much power is in acceptance of who you are.
I can relate to how my clients have expressed their feelings of not being in the right body, when their birth gender did not match the gender they felt. I certainly do not want to downplay their unique struggles because it is obviously so much more than just a disconnect for them. But, at the very least…I can understand that discomfort. I know that without those battles, I wouldn’t have constructed the capacities necessary to empower the youth I work with.

So to all the bullied, the broken, and the ones losing hope…I’ll leave you with a paraphrased quote that guided me then and now: I made weapons out of my imperfections.