On Being Fired for Being Disabled
A loophole in the Americans with Disability Act cost me my job.
Last week, I wrote a short entry promising to write more often on Medium, but I have yet to post anything new.
Soon after I published that entry, I was blindsided by my day job employer informing me that they had declared me unable to work my current job, they could not make an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and they would let me go soon unless I could find another position for myself in the university.
These two facts are related. I was just a bit upset, and I find writing challenging while figuring out my future survival, so that’s why I haven’t posted since last week.
Many of my friends have reacted to this with exclamations of “Is that legal?!” or “Get a lawyer!” Sadly, they have covered themselves, so I don’t have a lawsuit. Or at least I wouldn’t win if I filed one. Here’s how.
Three years ago, I informed my supervisor that my doctor suspected I had hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). About ten months later, after seeing various doctors to rule out other diagnoses, a geneticist confirmed that I indeed have hEDS. I informed my supervisor of the diagnosis and provided a list of symptoms, which included chronic fatigue and sleep disruptions.
Two months later, management changed my schedule so that I work until 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. You read the order of events correctly. First, I informed them that working that late would be difficult, if not dangerous, for me. Then, they changed my schedule, so I would have to work that late.
How did they justify that? They didn’t change MY schedule. They changed the schedule of the position I just so happened to be in.
You see, my coworker who had that schedule had recently quit, but the university decided not to fill that position. They eliminated it. Therefore, they needed one of the surviving job positions to take that schedule, and they decided to change the job description of the music specialist to include working until 9 p.m. so that they would be there after the Music Librarian had left for the day.