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Have FMLA but receiving pressure from employer
Jul 14, 2005

Hello! I was diagnosed about a year and a half ago with HIV and sadly when all tests were completed received an AIDS diagnosis. I have not had any opportunistic infections (that we have found) I have worked for this school district for 5 years (a good employee that has moved up the ranks and "was" well respected not only for the work I do but also for being the cheerleader of the group) Very soon after my diagnosis I began to experience severe problems with anemia. Because of this and the fact that it was causing me to miss more than my "fair share" of work I disclosed my status to a very trusted supervisor. The community I live in (also the place I grew up) is very small and very conservative would not welcome this kind of news with any open mind. Over this past year I was granted intermitent FMLA by my HR director and felt that things were being handled in a way that were benificial not only to me but to my employer. My direct supervisor spent this past year telling me how difficult it is when I have to miss work and generally has made it clear that she wants me gone. I know she is documenting against me and I am also pretty sure that she has shared confidential information with people in my district. I think they feel that they can treat me as they wish since they know that I don't want to expose my status to my entire community and subject my son to the predjudice that sadly still exists in the area. (South Texas) I have no idea what, if any recourse I have. I love my work and obviously am in need a medical insurance. I have missed a good deal of work not only receiving treatment but also sometimes unable to perform simple tasks such as walking across the floor. I am an "at will" employee who feels as though he is being treated horribly in an effort to get me to resign. I am ready to stand and claim my power I just don't know where to start. In all of this ugliness I have not be written up or disciplined in any "formal" manner. I am just being treated as though I am trash. I am not "allowed" to speak with administrators unless spoken to and can't have contact with people I work with unless I have specific business with them. This is difficult to understand when the entire staff is encouraged to work as a team and support each other. I don't know if I have any recourse and if I do where on earth do I start? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Sincerely, JME

Response from Ms. Breuer

Some people don't fire others; they just torture them until they leave. A scummy practice.

Discrimination is illegal, even in South Texas. You are being isolated at work, treated differently because of your diagnosis and limited in your ability to get your work done.

You have the right to discuss this with your HR director whether anyone gives you "permission" or not. Ask for an appointment to discuss a "workplace problem." Lay out your concerns as calmly and professionally as you can. I encourage you to hand the HR director a list of bullet points that are your concerns and work your way through them in the conversation. Point out during the conversation that you seek a solution that makes the work flow more smoothly both for you and for your supervisor. You can disarm someone simply by acknowledging that you're not the only one who has difficulty adjusting to the situation. It demonstrates empathy and awareness of the difficulty your absence creates for your supervisor.

If that conversation is unsatisfactory, calmly and professionally state that you prefer to resolve this without involving a lawyer or an officer of the company, but the working conditions have to change. Sometimes all it takes to remind an HR director of what's legal and what isn't is a well-worded letter from an attorney. That shouldn't set you back too much.

I'm sorry that you're facing this. Please remember that "at will employee" is not a synonym for "punching bag." You still have basic workplace rights. I wish you strength.

One more thought: I don't know whether you want to take this on, but sometimes the most disarming thing you can do is to publicly acknowledge your diagnosis, robbing your supervisor of her "secret" about you, and act as though you're still a person who deserves to be treated with dignity. You are. Being HIV positive is not a crime. Even in South Texas.

Please write again if you get partway downstream on this and would like further comments. Since I cannot see your email address in this program, please identify yourself in your second e-mail so that I can make the connection. Go well.



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