Is Discrimination a Factor in This Termination?
Is discrimination the reason you have not gotten the job, promotion or increase you believe you deserve or possibly, why you were fired? Today, we are going to talk about termination. What I am going to tell you might not be what you want to hear.
Nine out of ten times, there is no evidence of discrimination. The over-riding reason for a termination is poor performance. It is usually not a single incident; it is a pattern of non-performance.
Then there are exceptions.
That was the case with Jan, when she was fired from several jobs over the years. She would come to me and ask my advice and invariably I would tell her she did not have a case. She did not believe me and each time she engaged an attorney.
The last time it happened, we did not talk for over six months. She was mad at me, thinking I did not support her. The complete opposite was true; I did not want her to waste her time chasing something that was unproductive. In every case, she did not win.
Sometimes it is better to cut your losses and move on.
Well, it happened again to Jan last month; this time it is so clear that the termination was a poor decision and lacked evidence. For the first time, I wondered if her disabilities were the real reason for her dismissal.
Jan’s disabilities are not obvious, but they are real. She is very proud of not using her disabilities as a crutch, though sometimes it comes into play in her daily interactions with employees and customers.
Because of her desire to appear “normal”, when situations arise, it was easy for people to forget there might be a disability affecting how she handles it.
Jan has hearing loss in one ear. There are times when she speaks loudly and does not realize she is doing it. Under normal circumstances, someone might not be sensitive to her voice rising in the course of a conversation.
However, let us suppose you are an employee who is receiving feedback on something you have done wrong. If Jan’s voice elevates, you could think she is shouting or yelling at you. It happens because you become sensitive and forget that the other person is just being their normal self, someone with a disability.
Jan’s other disability is multiple sclerosis (MS). She was diagnosed about 8 years ago. She not using a cane nor is she wheel chair bound.
The company is fully aware of the limitations Jan has and that she is under doctor’s care. She takes care of herself and as a result manages the disease well; the fact is it can turn ugly quickly.
Stress and long hours take a toll on her and she hides the effects of it from her co-workers – only her close friends would know that she goes home and collapses after working 10-hour workdays. When things get overwhelming, sometimes she makes mistakes because of her disorientation.
Her doctors and the state have granted handicapped permits, yet she receives comments from people who challenge her when she parks in handicap areas (even at work). People will yell at her in the parking lot for parking in a handicapped spot, even though her license plate identifies her eligibility. Why do people jump to conclusions without knowing the facts?
Jan says to me that she is tired of having to justify her disabilities, whether or it is in her personal or work life.
I can understand why. “A person’s first instinct is if you don’t have a physical disability that they can see – i.e. wheelchair, cane, limps or whatever, their first assumption is you are not disabled,” I say. “It really is not worth being upset up over people who are misinformed ignorant.”
Well, back to her situation regarding her dismissal. Jan wrote a letter to the company to appeal the decision. It stunk because it was defensive.
When you write an appeal, you have to tell a story that lets the reader say, “Hm…I wonder if we did something wrong” vs. “I don’t like this person’s attitude”.
Jan has not heard from the company yet, however, the pieces are falling into place. Unemployment contacted her the first time with the company saying she was terminated for gross misconduct.
In her rebuttal, the company quickly changed it to a rule infraction – a much lesser offense. Now we wait to hear how the company handles the appeal process.