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Struggling at Work

I work in an ob/gyn teaching hospital, so you would think they would be more understanding than some other industries, right? Wrong. I'm struggling lately and have reached out an HR rep and to a friend in the legal field for the names of some local employment attorneys.

I have intermittent FMLA. I use it very sparingly. I have suffered from migraines since I was a child, but I wasn't officially diagnosed until 2004, when I was 38. Once I was diagnosed and found a med that works most of the time, my migraines became a lot less debilitating. I wake up daily with a headache and take acetaminophen prophylactically. Most days it's enough, but sometimes it's not.

On Jan. 28, I woke up about 3am with a bad bad migraine - vomiting, aura, light sensitivity, etc. My husband got up around 4:30 and said, "Give me your manager's number; I'll call you in." Normally if I call in sick, I email my manager and our director. This time, though, I was physically incapable of emailing or calling anyone. He got my manager's voicemail, told her I'd be out for the day. She didn't check her voicemail and said she was unaware that I was out until the following day.

Yesterday, I was tag teamed by my manager and my manager's manager (it seems to be the only way they do this) and I was told that since I am employed by our hospital, only I can call myself in...and I cannot leave a voicemail. I need to personally text my manager. They told me it is unacceptable for anyone but the employee to report themselves sick. Mind you, my husband has called me in sick on exactly three occasions in the 15 years that I've worked here. This is not the norm; it's a very very rare exception. I really want to ask them to show me a policy that says this because I can't imagine how this could even be legal. "Hi, I'm in a coma! Won't be in today!" I'm sure they'll tell me the only exception is if the employee is physically incapable of doing it herself (hello!).

They also brought up that several weeks ago, on my (unpaid) lunch break, in my office with door closed, someone knocked on the door and I told them I'd be with them after lunch. My manager told me this was unacceptable. I explained that I had closed the shades and laid down during my lunch break (there is a small loveseat in my office) because I had taken a migraine pill and needed a break from the lights. Also told them that normally I'd have made myself available, even on my lunch break (and that I rarely GET a lunch break, I usually just work right through it), but that day I'd been feeling nauseous and needed to lay down. The "tag team" told me "sleeping at work is not allowed" and that I am no longer allowed to use my lunch break to lay down. I tried explaining to them that this happens maybe one or two times per month and allows me to get through the afternoon to avoid taking FMLA to go home sick and that I never (EVER) do this outside of my lunch break. They told me if I need to lay down at lunch, I can go do it in the parking lot in my car.

I have been stressing over this since they talked to me yesterday afternoon. I'm not sure where all of this is coming from. These are new managers, and I don't know why they seem to be targeting me or why they are not receptive to my explanations. I think they think I'm sleeping in my office every day (I'm NOT!), and to be honest, what business is it of theirs what I do on my own UNPAID lunch break in my own office anyway???

Just feeling lost and unsupported.

  1. So sorry you are going through this . My boss once told me if I didn't get my migraines under control I "probably " couldn't work there anymore. I am an RN and was an Oncology clinic nurse. That started me down the rabbit hole of treatments that didn't work. Relpax finally did work but only allowsed 6 per month and averaged 15 migraines monthly. I am on Aimovig now with relief but some issues.
    It does seem you are being targeted. Have you gotten a letter from your doc outlining your treatment plan including short periods of quiet? Is there someone else in human resources to intercede

    1. @skatoulaki,
      It sounds like your employer is unable to understand that a migraine is not just a headache. It also sounds like no one is going to convince them of this truth. And some people can get vindictive.

      Since you can work, you could look for another job or you could just hang in there and do the best you can until you can change jobs. I know that with the pandemic, it can be hard to find new jobs. What do you think?

      Peggy (Migraine.com team)

    2. Hi @peggyartman,

      Yes, that's what I've been doing. I have actually been looking for another job for a couple of years, ever since they downsized my office (there used to be 3 people doing my job) and the management team changed.

      The biggest problem is the cost of healthcare. I was offered a job a couple of years ago - I was even willing to take a cut in pay - but the healthcare costs alone would have meant either my husband or I would have had to get a second job just to pay for health insurance.

  2. What does your doc think of this nasty treatment. I know the neuro I was seeing back then was plenty ticked off and offered to speak to my boss. I declined his offer at the time because I knew how vindictive my boss could be and would have made life worse. All of that for 3 call outs in a calendar year. Sometimes nurses can be the worst to each other. I only called out when I knew I wasn't safe to treat patients

    1. I'll be honest, I don't see my neuro very often. I'm lucky that it was pretty easy to find a med that worked for me. I don't really like taking medicine, so I really only take something to combat the nausea/vomiting, and if that works, I can still work with the pain.

      I'm not a nurse, though, I'm a secretary, so I'm staring at a screen all day. I have blue-blocker prescription eyeglasses, and I had the maintenance crew take out the motion-sensor for the fluorescents and put in a normal light switch, so I keep the overheads off and have a lamp on my desk, which helps this time of the year in the late afternoon. I usually just use the light from the window.

      This new management team I have seems pretty vindictive too. For instance, the reason they're giving a stink about my husband calling me in is because that manager didn't check her voicemail and didn't get his message that I was out until the next day. That's not my fault. As a manager, she should be checking her voicemail! I think it's unreasonable telling me that I'm the only one who can call myself in sick... I was physically unable to do it!

      1. Hi @skatoulaki,

        Wow, just wow! I'm so sorry you are dealing with this, and I can imagine how stressful this is.

        It may be useful to check into The Americans With Disabilities Act to see what kind of accommodations you can receive. Let me share our information with you on this; https://migraine.com/migraine-basics/ada-accommodations-the-workplace/. The links for JAN in this article are broken, so here is the link for that site; https://askjan.org/info-by-role.cfm#for-individuals and https://askjan.org/publications/individuals/employee-guide.cfm#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20EEOC%2C%20you,the%20phrase%20%22reasonable%20accommodation.%22.

        It's shameful the way you've been treated, from health care professionals as well.

        Let me know what you think,
        Nancy Harris Bonk, Patient Advocate/Moderator

        1. Hi Nancy, thanks for the great links! I am familiar with reasonable accommodations and that's why this makes me so frustrated. The docs that I have worked with for years, along with previous managers, were all aware that I would once or twice a month need to take a pill, close the shades, and lay down at lunchtime.

          A previous doc who worked here had a loveseat in his office, and when he left, I was moved into that office and he left his loveseat behind for me (nice expensive leather that he'd bought personally!) for that very reason.

          We also had the motion-sensor light switch changed out to a regular light switch so I could turn off the overhead fluorescent bulbs and use a desk lamp instead, and when we had in-person meetings in our conference room, the docs understood that the less harsh recessed lighting was sufficient since the overhead fluorescents exacerbate my migraine.

          Additionally, I have a Spotify playlist that I listen to that's especially designed for migraine sufferers (delta brain waves, etc.) that I often listen to at low volume in my office.

          The problem is that while the previous managers and director were understanding, either these things weren't communicated to the new managers and director, or they are less understanding. I have a direct manager, but she never comes down alone when I need to be "talked to." Her manager always comes with her. It's intimidating, especially when they come unannounced; and I usually get tongue-tied in the moment.

          I mean, I haven't been designated as disabled, and I haven't sought to have that designation. The only thing I do have is intermittent FMLA so that my job is somewhat protected if I have an episode of incapacity.

          I stressed about this all weekend, and so today I sent an email to both managers asking for HR policies that lay out the things they told me (what I can or can't do on my own lunch break; why it's required for an employee to personally call in sick when they are incapacitated, etc.). I also specifically said in my email that previous managers and doctors were aware of these things and that I believe they are reasonable accommodations protected under the ADA.

          I guess I'll see what they say, but the stress of that alone is not helping LOL!

        2. Thank you, kirbymom! I agree! It's added stress we don't really need! You would think that managers would be aware of regulations and accommodations, which is why it's so frustrating that even in a hospital, I'm dealing with this.

          I feel like they think I'm lazy and incompetent, but neither of those things is true.

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