‘But black roses and Hail Mary’s can’t bring back what’s taken from me’

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this blog tonight

My doctor has assessed me and has determined that I’m not medically fit to work right now

So, I’m taking a leave

I’m not sure for how long

Starting now

Part of me thinks I can never return to a place that made me doubt myself so many times

Questioning my value

Questioning my worth

I don’t care what anyone says

It was personal

It still is

And I can’t pretend that doesn’t hurt

Part of me is terrified at the prospect of starting over

Again

I’ve never had to look for a job carrying the weight of an MS diagnosis on my back

I don’t know how I feel carrying that burden into a new environment

I’m scared to go from one unsupportive employer to another

Let’s be real shall we?

Who wants to hire someone who is likely to take a lot of sick days?

Even if said person is fucking stellar…

On the days they are there

From a production point of view

It just doesn’t make sense

In their terms

I will always be a liability

And not an asset

So where do I go?

Even with certification I don’t have enough letters behind my name to start up a private practice

I’ve never really learned to do anything else

But you know talk to youth

What will I do if I can’t do that?

I’m not so egocentric as to think there won’t be others who are more skilled at engaging youth than I

And I will be replaced

As if I was never even there

Maybe just a cautionary tale for new staff

I’ll just be another adult who abandoned the kids I currently work with

All that work building trust

Gone just like me

They’ll look back on their time with me with bitterness and a reminder to never let someone get too close

And I’ll carry that guilt with me

And let me tell you kid

I fucking get it

I trusted too

I placed faith in my employer

And I’ll look back on this time with bitterness and a reminder to never let anyone see your weaknesses

After all this and I can still relate to those kids so damn much

For them, I’m sorry

I don’t know what’s next

And that is probably why my heart is beating out of my chest and my stomach is warring against itself

What will I do while I’m home?

Will I get worse with nothing to occupy my needy brain?

Will I sit around in my pjs and anxiously pick at the thoughts reverberating in my brain?

It’s okay

And I think to myself over and over again,

Not every story gets a happy ending

Not even when I’m writing it

And especially not when it’s my story

And it’s okay

It’s gonna be okay…

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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!

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.

What human rights?

So I finally received response from my employer re my questions and concerns from January 31. Here is that gem:

February 22, 2018

 

Dear Angela,

 

Thank you for your email.  As HR Manager, I have been asked to respond to your email.

 

You have stated that you did not understand what we meant when we referred to your pattern of absence.  

 

What we are referring to is the fact that, over the past 2 years and 2 months (for much of that time I was on an approved modified schedule), you have shown a repeated pattern of absence from work which is inconsistent with the requirements of your job.  Specifically, your job requires your attendance at work five days per week.  However, you have been unable to achieve five days’ attendance on a regular basis for any consistent period of time.  While this is not an exact breakdown, over the past 2 years, you have essentially attended work not more than 4 days per week.  This is not sufficient to meet the requirements of your employment duties, or our program needs.

 

As per our meeting on January 25th, redacted does note, you have explained the reason for your absences, and you have indicated that your medical condition is the cause of your unsatisfactory attendance.  We accept this is the case, and we do not question that you have a medical condition which is preventing you from regular attendance.  The fact remains that redacted has a commitment to its program that requires us to staff the program five days per week.  That is one of our primary concerns, i.e. to meet program needs, as well as ensuring that we are doing what we can to assist and accommodate you.

 

As your employer, we have a right to expect regular full time attendance from you (meaning five days per week), unless you have a medical condition preventing you from such regular attendance.  As mentioned, we accept your statement that you do have a medical condition, but we are entitled to ask for medical information from you to justify your absences from work and your pattern of irregular attendance.  That is why during the meeting we asked you to provide us with medical information so that we may better understand your situation and what we may have to do to accommodate your situation. In follow up to the meeting, you advised us of your medical appointment on February 8, 2018, we requested that you provide us with medical information, so that we may better understand your situation and your needs, and any accommodations required.(NOTE I HAVE NOT ASKED FOR ANY ACCOMMODATIONS!)

 

I acknowledge that, on February 20, 2018, you emailed to us a medical note dated February 8, 2018 from Dr. redacted.  Based upon our review of Dr. redacted medical note, however, it would appear that Dr. redacted may not be aware of the extent and frequency of your absences (!!!!)  In particular, Dr. redacted states that “generally [you are] capable of full-time work with regular duties but from time to time will unexpectedly require time off work for a period of days to weeks at a time”. 

 

It’s is redacted view that Dr. redacted has not correctly characterized your current ability for full-time work.  Dr. redacted 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 (again modified work schedule) 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 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 redacted 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. redacted for a follow up appointment and specifically obtain the following medical information in written form from Dr. redacted and then provide it to us: (ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!)

 

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 (WHAT DOCTOR WOULD DO THIS??)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 (Psychic abilities needed) in the reasonably foreseeable future; and

5.       Any suggested accommodations or recommendations your doctor may have for redacted 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 (NOTE I HAVE NOT ASKED FOR ANY ACCOMMODATIONS), as well as our ability to ensure that we meet program needs, which are five days per week.

 

Your email mentions that you provided a booklet for employers to redacted about employees with MS, and how best to support them.  In our review of that information, we believe we have met the needs outlined repeatedly over the course of the past two plus years.  Moreover, the booklet supports our position that it is appropriate to have medical information from your physician, as described above, which is specific to your needs, and which advises us what your specific workplace restrictions and needs are, as well as any accommodation measures which we can provide to you specifically. 

 

You also mentioned that you felt the climate of redacted has shifted “dramatically”.  We do not believe that to be the case.  If there is any particular workplace issue you feel has changed dramatically (Uh you and all of this since we became unionized?), please let us know so that we may take proactive measures to ensure there is nothing happening in the workplace that is negatively affecting your medical condition and/or your ability to work (again all of this is causing me anxiety).  If you are referring to issues that are not related to your own medical situation, please also advise us what you mean, since we want to be proactive in correcting any problems or issues in our workplace.

 

I also wanted to address your comment that you felt you were attacked in our conversation during our meeting on January 25th.  I can assure you this was not our goal or intention.  Our purpose in meeting with you was to discuss your attendance issue and your ability to perform your workplace duties.  It was also to advise you of the impact your irregular attendance is having on redacted ability and requirement to meet its program goals.  We also want to understand how we might be able to accommodate your needs.  It is our hope that you do not think there was any intention to attack you personally, as that is not the case.

 

You also mentioned we used the word “honest” in our discussions.  We did not mean to suggest you are not being “honest” or forthright with us.  What we meant by using the word honest is that we require medical information from your doctor so that we can make an honest assessment of your needs and requirements, and so that you can make an honest assessment as to whether you will be able to achieve regular, full-time attendance in the foreseeable future. (Yeah that’s what ‘honest’ means) We are not questioning your personal honesty or integrity.

 

As you probably know, an employer has a duty to accommodate an employee with a medical disability.  As well, an employee also has a duty to participate with the employer in the efforts to accommodate the employee, and provide the medical information from your physician as requested so that we may do our best to ensure you have regular attendance at work, perform your employment duties in a satisfactory manner, meet redacted program goals, and at the same time ensure we are meeting your needs for accommodation.

 

In addition to requesting your doctor specifically answer in writing the five questions outlined above, I have provided a further form for your doctor to complete.  Please arrange to see him and return the form, along with the answers to the five questions set out above, by Friday, March 2, 2018 (a fucking week!) If you feel you are not able to meet this deadline for submission of the medical information, please let me know when it is likely that you will be able to provide it to us.

 

You mentioned you will seek union assistance.  While you are, of course, free to talk to your union representative should you wish to do so, I would merely mention that, at this point in time, we do not have a Collective Agreement with the union and, as such, our obligation is to deal with you directly.  Having said that, we will, of course, talk to your union representatives should you instruct them to do so.

 

I look forward to receiving the medical information from you by the above-referenced deadline.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me or redacted

 

Kind Regards,

 

Redacted

Human Resources Manager’

6 years of my time. I cannot help but think of it as a fucking waste.

 

The saga continues…

So I guess I should start with where I had previously left off

I was really depressed after all that stuff at the meeting. Half of me wanted to quit and half of me wanted to just cry.

I received an email from my employer asking if to confirm the details of the meeting and the deadline to provide the doctors letter. You know so we can all work together 😒

I thought on it.

And then I got angry.

I emailed back on January 31

I asked for clarity on some thing I did not fully understand.

I asked for ‘clarity around the issue of a pattern of my absences. I asked what exactly does that mean? I feel like anyone with a chronic and incurable illness would indeed have a pattern of absences?’

I asked if an email was circulated when my coworkers called in absent or if it was just in my case. I asked them if the book I gave them in 2013 for employees on how to support employees with MS was reviewed in their attempts to make me feel ‘supported’?

I explained that felt unsupported and attacked at the meeting ‘when I was repeatedly questioned about my honesty and my capability, of which I have never shied away from answering.’ I explained that I felt I was being asked to reduce my work hours or face the consequences of calling in sick.

I let them know I would be speaking to my union to ensure that my rights continue to be protected.

And after all that???

Crickets

Since January 31

With the February 15 deadline looming for providing the doctors note

Since then, I’ve spoken to a lawyer from the Volunteer Legal Advocacy Program, through the MS Society.

This is a summary of that conversation:

•My employer is aware of my diagnosis of MS, which is listed as a disability under the Human Right’s Code.

•My employer asking me to commit to a five day work schedule without taking sick days is impossible from an MS standpoint and therefore ‘unfair’.

•My employer has a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship. They have shown that in the past they were able to do so by me taking unpaid sick days, working from home and putting a relief roster in place.

•He stated that his suggestion was that I do NOT provide a doctor’s note, however, if I wanted to, it should say something along the lines of: I do have a diagnosis of MS, and am capable of working 5 days a week, however due to the unpredictable nature of the disease, I may need to take sick days. I do not require a modified work schedule, as there will be times when I can work a full schedule, and also periods of time where I cannot.

•He also stated that if there is any recourse/reprisal any of this I can file a human right’s complaint based ion discrimination.

•He also said that what they are doing is unreasonable due to the circumstances of my disability, of which they have been aware since 2013.

You’d think one would feel relieved after that information…

I didn’t

I felt even more upset

That an employer would be so underhanded and clearly willing to skirt the law in an attempt to what? Get rid of me?

Sitting here even know

I’m shaking my head in bewilderment

The union is involved now although still somewhat minimally

I went to see my family doctor, for which my employer had to arrange coverage for my position and have me take a sick day and pay someone else for said coverage. 🙄

Like I said…bewilderment

My doctor wrote the note as he too felt that he could not be expected to write a note like what my employer was hoping for. His note is essentially what the lawyer has advised me on getting.

I’m home now

I still haven’t received an email

The union and lawyer have both said I should not submit the note

The union said if I haven’t received clarity by early next week, they would contact my employer

The lawyer asked what would happen if the deadline passed and a note was not provided?

I still don’t know

The union said there SHOULDN’T be any repercussions

That does little to assuage this anxious brain

Still I rise,

Angela