I thought I’d write about this subject because very recently I experienced my first taste of ‘discrimination’ in the workplace for my medical condition.
Which is also part of the reason in which I began seeking new employment.
Don’t even get me started on job interviews… Just yet!
First of all, some background:
I worked full time in a pharmaceutical company and had done so for over the past year and a half. This deals with a lot of dangerous, corrosive and organ damaging chemicals that I have to manually handle, lift, pour and use on a daily basis. Alongside setting up apparatus and getting my hands dirty!
Now this was all just part of the job, the job I also had before I was diagnosed with Epilepsy.
Once I was diagnosed, my neurologist recommended that I tell my employer for Health and Safety reasons. He said it was to ensure that I was always paired up with someone when handling chemicals and lifting heavy objects around the site.
‘No more lone working’ was my new slogan… and I was dreading telling them in case I was fired for not being ‘fit enough for the job’ (no pun intended)!
So there I was, sat in the doctors office of my workplace and to my delight they suggested the ‘no more lone working’ motto before I even had a chance to mention it. I thought was really good of them and it made me feel a lot better in myself about my condition.
It wasn’t until around a year of working there, that I had my first real taste in the workplace of someone challenging me to do something chemical related alone.
Let’s set the scene:
I had packaged up a few boxes of chemical samples and had to carry them across site (where HGV vehicles, fork lift trucks and chemical containers were aplenty) and asked my fellow colleague to help me drop them off so I wouldn’t be alone.
He was more than happy to help me out and got his hard hat and high vis jacket at the ready.
No sooner had we suited up to head across site that our line manager piped up; “It doesn’t take two of you to take those boxes over to the warehouse!”
I gently reminded her that I was not to carry out work tasks alone throughout site due to my epilepsy and it was also backed up by the in house doctor. The reply I got baffled me…
“Well, I just think its odd that you can walk out of site to get your bus alone but you have to be accompanied during work”
Oh yes… She went there.
I stared at her, dumbfounded by such a sentence and kindly went on to remind her that the company I work for was insured to keep all members of staff safe during working hours, especially depending on personal circumstances.
I then informed her that I am obviously not insured to walk outside alone which is a big enough risk in itself, and asked her why I should endanger myself at work as well?!
She must think I’m Kim Kardashian’s butt and have money to insure myself!
Safe to say that after dealing with that comment I soon got a new job… But certainly not before my fair share of awkward interviews after hearing I had epilepsy.
I’ll treat you to one example:
For one job I applied for I had a total of 3 interviews before finding out if I got the job or not.
Interview 1: Telephone Interview.
Interview 2: Face to Face Interview
Interview 3: Face to Face Interview with Site Tour and Talks of Hours, Medical Conditions, the Usual…
Obviously, I assumed it was going well and the job was in the bag as interviews 1 and 2 had gone smoothly.
When attending interview 3, I really thought I had it 100% in the bag due to having a site tour, seeing the working areas, speaking about hours that suited me best, and showing off my knowledge about the company (nerd alert).
It wasn’t until myself and the employer were finalising the interview, that I answered ‘Epilepsy’ to the medical conditions question.
Well wasn’t her face a picture!!
I could tell that she didn’t really have any kind of real idea what that word meant, what would happen to me if it happened at work, and if I could sneeze on her and pass it on… Yes it was that kind of face.
I knew there and then by her confusion that I wasn’t going to get the job as she asked all of the standard ignorant questions:
“Oh so, you have what… fits?”
“What do you do when you have one?”
“Have you had it forever?”
And generally began speaking to me like I was some kind of victim/ idiot.
I always try to make it light-hearted when someone seems uncomfortable about hearing the word, and I know a lot of people just don’t know enough about it, but it doesn’t always seem to make a difference.
I just wish people wouldn’t hear it and assume I’m an unidentifiable alien creature.
Long story short,I didn’t get the job!
Although I’ve had my fair share of mishaps and awkward, confused faces staring at me after the ‘taboo’ subject is mentioned, I’ve finally found myself a new job in an office with our local Health Service, with good working hours that will accompany my studies when I begin again this September!
More on that later in the Year…