On the Eve of Ida: A Disability Storm of Meeting Expectations in the Workplace

I left for work today with the remnants of Hurricane Ida dumping sheets of rain on the Lehigh Valley, and I was honestly thinking that I’m grateful to have a job I like and a wage that keeps me from feeling like I’m on the verge of poverty.

With my past stressful work experiences I like the challenges and the environment at my warehouse job.

Because this post discusses my disability and its impact on my work performance and the struggle this creates for my employer to be fair, I am not naming that employer. If you read my blog with any sort of regularity, you know who it is. Let me be clear: I am NOT critiquing my employer or my local warehouse’s management.

I want to share the thoughts and questions as they run through my head.

I essentially fold clothes for a living. I often wonder what would happen if we made piece rate instead of the current wage. I make $18 per hour to fold clothes, but the expectation is that I will fold at least 90 items per hour. Now, I’m oversimplifying.

Most of the time, I reach 96-99% of this number. Tonight and Monday— 99%. Friday might have been 97%. But 3-4 days a month I only do 85.

My supervisor keeps asking what “they” can do to help— especially since in my weekly observations I routinely get 108%. It really bothers them that I am not at 100% or even consistant. My supervisor periodically makes it sound like she has to defend me in HR meetings.

I want to be able to say you are fully performing.

Supervisor

I have cerebral palsy, arthritis in my S1 joint and am also struggling with anemia. How do I explain this converges with my menstrual cycle not once but twice a month to leave me fighting pain and discomfort no medication I’ve found can touch?

How do I (and why do I have to) explain that cerebral palsy means the messages between my brain and my body don’t fire correctly and that my muscles stiffen?

How do I explain that anemia prevents me from moving any faster?

They give me examples of accommodations— sitting throughout the night, for example. (That would make my back stiffen even worse.)

I was told tonight that every employee needs to meet three areas of expectation— attendance (I got that), “culture” (meaning I have a good attitude and demonstrate their corporate values) and job performance.

I need to meet the numerical metrics in two work centers. So far, after ten months, I am 96-99% on one. And I seem to be a C student in all the others.

I get it. It’s a warehouse. You need metrics. We need to meet the numbers. But I’m so damn close. It’s not like I’m miles away. 99%.

I hope they really help me succeed. There was discussion today of potentially needing to take a medical accommodation form to my doctor. The problem with that is— my doctor doesn’t understand CP. I am still looking for the same answers my employer wants.

Am I wrong to want to do physical work when I don’t have the same body as everyone else?

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