I May Have to Disclose AS to My Employer

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StarTrekker
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18 Oct 2014, 10:55 pm

This is mostly just a frustrated rant thread. Today at work (read: WalMart), two higher ups in management came and told me that because of my limited availability (due to the fact that I'm in full-time school), they need to move me from bakery, where I was initially hired, to cashier. I can't be a cashier; the speed at which I'll have to work, the constant non-stop human interaction, the fiddly electronic equipment (I'm a serious luddite), and the chaos, light, and noise exposure for nine straight hours will all be things I won't be able to deal with. I've refrained from telling anyone above my immediate supervisor and bakery co-workers about my autism in case they decide to use it against me, or conclude that I'm unfit for work because of it, but my supervisor is going to try to help me stay in the bakery, and I'm concerned that when she does, for the manager to understand why I can't do the cashiering job, I'm going to have to tell him about my AS, and I'm worried because it's WalMart, which means he's virtually guaranteed not to have a clue what it is, or what it means for the things I can do, and the things I can't. I hate being forced into a corner, but I really need my job if I'm going to afford to stay in school.


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conundrum
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18 Oct 2014, 11:39 pm

Ouch. I know what you mean. I am a cashier there, and can only do part time (no more than 5.5 hours/day, no more than 20 hours/week, whenever possible). Full shifts...no, just no.

I have not disclosed...my "reason" for being part-time only is that I am also an online teacher, which takes up a lot of time (grading, etc.). For me, cashiering works (I was moved out of grocery within 3 months of being hired because it took me too long to shelve items). However, I understand why it is impossible for you.

Can your bakery supervisor make a strong case for really, really needing you to stay there? Could she say that you are one of the best people back there, part-time or not, and moving you out of that department would be a hardship for her?

I honestly don't know what might happen if you disclose. Are you officially diagnosed? If so, and you are terminated for disclosing, you might have grounds to take legal action (Americans With Disabilities Act).

It is possible that your manager would understand and allow you to remain where you are...if you've been doing fine in bakery so far, wouldn't it be better to keep an employee where she is best suited? Rehiring replacements is a hassle for them.

It really depends on the individual store, and the people in it. My managers are great, but I know some people who work at the other one in my town...the managers there....well, aren't great.

Wish I could be of more help. I hope this works out for you. I know you need this job...believe me, I know what that's like.


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olympiadis
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19 Oct 2014, 1:13 am

:cry:



StarTrekker
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19 Oct 2014, 1:20 am

conundrum wrote:

Can your bakery supervisor make a strong case for really, really needing you to stay there? Could she say that you are one of the best people back there, part-time or not, and moving you out of that department would be a hardship for her?

I honestly don't know what might happen if you disclose. Are you officially diagnosed? If so, and you are terminated for disclosing, you might have grounds to take legal action (Americans With Disabilities Act).

It is possible that your manager would understand and allow you to remain where you are...if you've been doing fine in bakery so far, wouldn't it be better to keep an employee where she is best suited? Rehiring replacements is a hassle for them.


I'm hoping that's what my supervisor will do. I don't know what she intends to say to the manager, but she agrees with me (after seeing some of my reactions to stress and too much sensory stimuli) that cashiering is not the best position for me. This was even before she knew I had AS (I told her about five minutes later because I had assumed, based on the fact that I'd already told all my coworkers, that she already knew).

I am officially diagnosed, and depending on what happens, I may have grounds to call discrimination, but it's really hard to prove, since he could just say he was firing me because I was unable to do the job he needed me to do, or was unavailable for the hours he needed.

I have a sort of mini-speech worked out that describes exactly why I'm a greater asset in the bakery than I would be as a cashier, and that's really where my disclosure comes in. I have to outline my strengths and weaknesses and point out how all my strengths lie in one area and all my weaknesses in another. I have to mention that the underlying factor for my specific strengths and weaknesses is AS, because he might just decide to get rid of me for being incompetent and unable to do what all the other normal people are capable of. It's basically my reason for why I deserve "special consideration".


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conundrum
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19 Oct 2014, 2:37 am

That's good. If you lay all of that out, relating said strengths and weaknesses to AS, and then he fires you, you probably will be able to call discrimination because you made it clear that his reasons for doing so are related to a documented disability.

Have witnesses when all of this happens. I really hope everything works out.

Take care.


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19 Oct 2014, 8:13 am

I love conundrum's advice -- those comments say it all, basically. You do have legal rights if it comes to it. I really hope this goes well for you, as you absolutely deserve to be able to explain the reasons why this proposed switch is just disaster for you and for them because they are not picking the right person. I hope you get to stay in the bakery! Best wishes in all this.


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On the other hand, friends will never need an explanation, and enemies bent on disliking me will never accept one.

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StarTrekker
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19 Oct 2014, 10:23 pm

Thanks guys, I appreciate the support. I talked about it with everyone today, and they said that if I can pull nine hours on Fridays instead of 4.5, I can stay on at the bakery. Unfortunately, my supervisor, in explaining my predicament, did bring up my AS, so at least a few people in management now know about it (and of course have no idea what it is. Apparently they said they'd have to "go google it".) I just hope this doesn't come back to bite me later.


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jbw
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20 Oct 2014, 1:47 am

Best not to leave the interpretation of AS entirely up to Google. If you had to disclose, it may be useful to provide the manager with a pointer to a description of AS that is not full of misleading stereotypes.

In general material by Tony Attwood contains good descriptions, but http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/index.php/about-aspergers for example contains at least two somewhat contentious statements:

The person values being creative rather than co-operative.

It is unfortunate to see creative and co-operative positioned as mutually exclusive. In fact aspies are perfectly capable of co-operating, but have a strong preference for a fluid team environment where tasks are allocated according to skill levels and knowledge rather than according to a hierarchical structure.

The person with Aspergers syndrome may perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail, rather than noticing the ?big picture?.

This is another unfortunate stereotype, assuming that attention to detail excludes the ability to see the big picture. In my experience this stereotype is simply untrue in general. A more specific statement along the following lines would come closer to the truth:

The person with Aspergers syndrome may perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail, rather than noticing the "social context" of the situation.

From a neurotypical perspective the "big picture" is always the social context, it is never the physical context, or the wider ecological context. Similarly, in a work context, from a neurotypical perspective the "big picture" is always the concrete organisational context (= power hierarchy), it is never the wider economic context.

Maybe the WP community should identify a handful reasonable descriptions of AS from professional experts like Tony Attwood, and collectively review these descriptions to improve potentially contentious statements. As needed we can use polls to select the most appropriate wording. As a last step we can approach the professional experts with a request to update their descriptions. As long as we don't artificially play down common AS challenges, I'm sure that our proposals will fall on open ears.

Such an initiative could go a long way to de-risk situations like the one StarTrekker finds herself in.

If anyone has already identified a professional description of AS that avoids the two stereotypes listed above, please post a link.



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20 Oct 2014, 2:55 am

StarTrekker wrote:
I just hope this doesn't come back to bite me later.


You might want to go to your local employment office and/or vocational rehabilitation office and let them know what is going on. That way they can advocate for you if it does backfire on you in some way.

It's good that you have that supervisor in your corner. I don't want to scare you, because things may work out just fine. But as you probably already know, Walmart is not an employee friendly company.

I worked at Walmart for a year and a half, about 11 years ago. The store I worked at was a really bad store, and I don't think they are all as bad as this one was. But I want to tell you what went on there so you have fair warning.

All the managers and supervisors in the store used to have a big meeting in the breakroom every so often. They didn't close the doors so if you happened to be walking by, you could hear what was going on. They would go down a list of every single employee in the store, and discuss whether to keep the person on or not.

Anyone with a health problem, disability, injury, especially a worker's comp claim was a prime target for being let go. They didn't particularly like to fire people. They would if they had to, but I think they preferred to just do lay offs.

Long story short I disclosed my ADHD, had a back injury at work, and began having health issues due to the severe anxiety and stress of working there. My supervisor liked me and wanted me to become a department manager, but I said no because I had no interest in moving up the ladder there. At one point he said they had planned on laying me off, but he asked them to keep me on because I was a good worker.

Eventually I was called into the office by 3 managers and they asked me to quit. They put a lot of pressure on me, interrogated me about my personal life, basically just ganged up on me. I was too broken down and intimidated at that point to even know how to deal with it. I just refused to quit. I told them they could fire me if they wanted. They didn't. But it was clear that they were going to make my life hell if I stayed on there. So I found another job and quit anyway soon after that.

Walmart really just wants employees who are completely healthy, ready and available to work anytime, who pose no potential risk or liability to the company. And they only want to keep people on who are willing to join their corporate cult and move up the ladder. They will do their best to push everyone else out the door. They look at everything in terms of potential lawsuits or legal action. If you disclose a disability, they look at this as a legal move - which it essentially is - and they start thinking ten steps ahead of you, like a chess game.

I strongly suggest you talk to someone at vocational rehab. They can give you advice on how to handle the situation, let you know what your options are, and they can probably step in to explain things to management if you need that.



donthaveanickname
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22 Oct 2014, 1:31 am

I have been through this and am still. I was diagnosed 2.5 years ago, and due to problems at work particularly with my supervisor. We are still working through issues, but I am still working. I won't lie. It's not a fun process. However, the law is to protect you from discrimination, and I hope you will take this one lesson I learned so you will have better, faster, success: Once your supervisor knew of this, and you stated your reasons for needing to remain in the bakery (i.e. accommodations you needed at work) they are mandated by Federal law to engage in a discussion with you that is an honest attempt to make what are called reasonable accommodations so you can do your job. If this means staying in the bakery, so be it. I would also address the issue of getting stressed out by stimuli and include that too. If you want to finish school and not "stay" disclosed, you do not have to disclose to future employers if you don't want to.



olympiadis
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22 Oct 2014, 1:57 am

I agree with Dianthus' description of walmart.


jbw wrote:
The person with Aspergers syndrome may perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail, rather than noticing the ?big picture?.

This is another unfortunate stereotype, assuming that attention to detail excludes the ability to see the big picture. In my experience this stereotype is simply untrue in general. A more specific statement along the following lines would come closer to the truth:

The person with Aspergers syndrome may perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail, rather than noticing the "social context" of the situation.

From a neurotypical perspective the "big picture" is always the social context, it is never the physical context, or the wider ecological context. Similarly, in a work context, from a neurotypical perspective the "big picture" is always the concrete organisational context (= power hierarchy), it is never the wider economic context.


This is an extremely good explanation.
I have no trouble seeing big pictures of things that are real.
When it comes to imaginary things like social context, then I try not to see any of it.

Back in the mid 80's Richard Feynman sat in a room full of experts who were concentrating on the big picture of why the space shuttle exploded. Feynman went about finding the detail that directly caused the explosion, and later went on to describe how it was the big picture that really caused the conditions that lead to the accident.
It was in fact the social context that prevented the others from seeing either problem.



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22 Oct 2014, 6:00 pm

That's good information, if rather disturbing. I'm not really sure how to bring it up with management because we're all so busy and distracted all the time. I only heard about what my supervisor said after she told me; she'd spoken to her supervisor that evening after I'd left, as in, snagged her while she was doing her shopping and dropped her/my request on her. I'm uncertain as to how much of a big deal they're going to make out of it; my supervisor doesn't seem to have any problem, she likes me and already knows I can do the work. I kind of want the opportunity to talk to them about it, but at the same time, if they're not going to make it out to be more complicated and bigger than it is, I'd just as soon leave well enough alone.


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conundrum
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22 Oct 2014, 6:25 pm

olympiadis wrote:
Back in the mid 80's Richard Feynman sat in a room full of experts who were concentrating on the big picture of why the space shuttle exploded. Feynman went about finding the detail that directly caused the explosion, and later went on to describe how it was the big picture that really caused the conditions that lead to the accident.
It was in fact the social context that prevented the others from seeing either problem.


Yes--I use this as an example in my White-Collar Crime course. Take a look:

http://challenger-o-ring.com/


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conundrum
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22 Oct 2014, 6:28 pm

@BirdInFlight: thanks. :)

@dianthus: thankfully, my location is not like that, but I have a sneaking suspicion (from what others have told me) that the other one in my town might be....With that being said, I agree that your advice is very sound--be prepared for anything and everything.

@StarTrekker: again, I really hope this works out for you. At least your supervisor seems to be on your side. Let us know how things go. And yes, you might want to provide more information about AS than what someone might find with a (not-always accurate) Google search.


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The existence of the leader who is wise
is barely known to those he leads.
He acts without unnecessary speech,
so that the people say,
'It happened of its own accord.' -Tao Te Ching, Verse 17