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HELP ME, MY HIV IS UNPREDICTABLE!
Sep 18, 2002

I have been HIV positive since April 1st, 2000 and my first Tcells at that time where 700 and my viral load was somewhere around 40,000. At that point in time and based on the research I did, I immediately started into drug therapy. As of today, my Tcells are over 1000 and my viral load is undetectable. Good job you say? I would say so, but it has cost me plenty and now I need help.

From the onset of drug therapy, I have dealt with an enormous amount of side effects which have caused unpredictable attendance issues with my employer. It was clearly apparent to all I was suffering from something medical in nature and I was going to have to disclose my illness or get fired. I notified my manager in July of 2001, I was HIV+ and having adverse reactions due to medication and for some reason, an increase in bacterial and viral infections.

She suggested I go on FMLA (intermitantly) and she would have to discuss my illness with one HR representative to file the paperwork and make sure things were followed correctly. In August of 2001 with only a doctors note given, I notified my Manger and HR Department I was suffering from a serious medical condition and would basically have in increase in appointments and possible episodic illness associated with this condition. I also requested to be removed from my supervisory position to a position I would be responsible for only my actions. My manager created a position for which I have no job description. From there, I basically continued down the path of destruction and then depression set in after Sept. 11th. I basically should have gone out on the full 12weeks of FMLA but at that time, neither the company nor I knew it would be so unmanageable.

Finally I took charge of my life and sought counseling with a therapist, several specialists to help me deal with my individual side effects and legal advice. At the same time, I knew I was going to exhaust my FMLA by the end of December of 2001. So I needed to act quickly and on 12-20-01 I met with my Manager and HR representative.

At this meeting, I filed official documents stating I could return back to work and was not looking to leave my position. I also requested protection and reasonable accommodations under the ADA. I requested an extension of leave (non paid) for medical appointments, treatments and counseling. This also included any episodic side effects as noted by my doctor. I actually went as far to only schedule medical appointments on specific days of the week and times so things would be well organized and my manager would always know the days and times. I also asked for my job description so that I clearly understood the essential functions. I felt good after our meeting but on 1-7-02, I had to file a memorandum requesting an answer. At the time I submitted this to my manager, I also notified the company I was HIV+ therefore defining my condition.

Once I did this manger blew her top in a one on one meeting with me. She stated things like I was taking advantage of her and she felt I was just staying home because I did not want to work. The killer question was; when are you going to get better, I cannot stand up for you any longer. Me, 37 years old, cried in front of her and for the next 30 minutes I understood how one persons ignorance could cause someone to feel discriminated, I always thanked her and even praised her by even went as far as writing a letter to the HR department telling them what a remarkable person she was. Anyways, I went back to work, working more than 50+ hours and getting back helped me too. But just recently, I was out again due to a really bad sore throat and a bacterial infection. I am afraid I am being set up to be fired because I know I can no longer perform any essentials of a job I am expected to do but still have no description for. Recent goals were written and I the time frames most likely will not be met therefore not meeting expectations.

I recently heard and read about Unpredictable Attendance can cause an employer not to grant reasonable accommodation. In fact, in my research, many cases were lost where employers terminated employees and did not grant accommodations. What I cannot find is, how long does a company have to respond to an employees request for accommodations or at least a their thoughts on a solutions?

I know my attendance is an issue and I am open to other positions with less stress as I originally suggested. I need to keep intact my benefits till I fully can get this train back on track. Im really personally on the road to being ok and I think they abused me by expecting such long hours right away. But I am afraid my manager along with a new Director who views me as an unproductive employee, have given up on me and Im not sure if I should request an amendment to my accommodation never answered. I cannot guarantee I will be there everyday and my basically disability seems unlikely due to my Tcells and Viral load. I employee, who has received for the last 4 years, above standards review and 4 promotions and Im not ready to give up.

Sincerely "Help Me!"

Response from Ms. Breuer

Please agree with me that your health comes first and your job comes second. From that basis, we can go on.

Your employer is not under any stated time limitation to respond to a request for an accommodation. In my opinion, it's very foolish for them to proceed without a written job description for you, because neither you nor they can tell if you're fullfilling the essential functions. You already know that.

My greatest concern is that keeping this particular job may not be great for your health. These folks are not managing well.

Next, you need an HIV-knowledgeable attorney far more than you need me. This nonsense has gone on long enough, and you're exhausting yourself trying to be your own attorney. Find one through your local AIDS service organization. Your health comes first!



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