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Thread: Worried about discrimination at my work

  1. #1

    Question Worried about discrimination at my work

    Hi everyone,

    I have a question about discrimination at work. Sorry for the long post, this is the first time Ive written it all out. I don't know if anyone here has any experience with this kind of thing and knows if I am being silly or overreacting, or if it is discrimination, and if so, what I can do? I'm so confused, because I always thought of my manager and others as really decent and nice people, so I can't quite believe they would discriminate against me. Below is my story. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    TLDR: I became disabled, my manager and boss have started treating me differently, refused to give me a pay review even though I was due one before I became disabled.

    Detailed story:

    I became disabled quite suddenly, and although it was possible I could recover, I haven't - the incident happened about 18 months ago. I was off work in hospital for about 3 weeks. Then I started working from home.

    I've been working constantly since then, but a lot of it at home - my employers agreed to this (a proportion of the week in the office and a proportion at home).

    I found out from some colleagues that the main boss (not my direct line manager) had been saying things in front of other people about my pain meds I was on and making jokes about me working while on pain meds. My meds have made me a little hazy sometimes but I have still been really successful in my job the past 18 months.

    All my work can be done fine from home, I go in for meetings or use Skype and am in the office at least a day a week. Since I've been disabled, I noticed slightly different treatment - the main boss stopped giving me any praise, my line manager made comments to me about me not being as sharp anymore because I slurred my words a couple of times (the meds). However, I have done a lot of very good work, I often work beyond my hours to try and make up for what they perceive as 'less sharp.' I have objective proof of the good work I have done, helping to bring in more than £1 million over the past year.

    Before I got sick I was due to have a reappraisal of my job as my role had changed a lot. After I'd been back at work for about 6 months after the incident (still working in the new role, which is advertised at a higher pay grade for the same role in other departments in the same institution), I brought this up with my manager but she said she refused to support me, saying that my performance in a meeting the day before hadn't been that good (which I admit, and that was due to a too high workload, but this is supposed to be about my duties and she ignored everything good I had done and just kept focusing on that one meeting).

    She suggested we discuss in a couple of months, so we did, and she refused to support me again, this time giving a totally different reason, that it wasn't about my job description (despite the fact that the grading of jobs is done purely on job description) and that it was about how much I take charge and that I should 'take charge' more. So I did. 2 months later, it was another reason - something I can't remember right now.

    I then had a couple of months where I was feeling a lot better and was in the office more. We met again and she agreed to support my application for a pay appraisal (even though nothing had changed other than my health being better), I had to fill out an application, send to her for her to add comments to support it, she would then send it back to me to discuss her comments before submitting it to HR.

    I was busy and it took me a while to complete the application, but by the time I gave it to her, my health had deteriorated again, meaning I couldn't be in the office as much. I was still working from home though, and again working incredibly hard, in the evenings and at weekends and having success with my work.

    I submitted the application to her, but she never sent it back to me with her comments. When I asked her about it a couple of weeks later, she said she had submitted it (they don't have to support it to submit it, if you want to submit one you can, but I wanted to do it with her support as it will have a better chance), but she never sent me her comments. I asked her to see them but she changed the subject.

    I had asked her to get me an appointment with occupational health to help me manage work, and I had also asked for a reduction in my workload as it was ridiculous, with me having to work weekends and evenings (I am on an 80% contract). She agreed to contact OH and just said my workload would get less on its own and not to work late.
    I emailed her in early May about the OH appointment as I hadn't heard anything for about 6 months, but she didn't reply. I was feeling much much worse, and the workload was just increasing all the time - with people asking me for huge amounts of work with a deadline of 2 days, meaning I had to stay up til 5am finishing it. When I came into work tired, she berated me (gently) for staying up late and coming to work tired and to not work in the evening. She says this, but will then email me in the evening or weekends asking me for stuff urgently 'if you are on email, please can you... I feel awful asking you for this! etc etc'

    I asked her again in person about the OH appointment and she said she had contacted them a couple of months ago to say I didn't need an appointment anymore, because I seemed a lot better and she assumed I didn't need one! I had never said I didn't need one - while a lot better at that time, I knew my condition is fluctuating and still had bad days. She also told me I have to be in the office more, but I asked her what about the arrangements for me to work at home, and she said 'oh yeah, well if you need to work at home because of that, then..' But it is making me feel under enormous pressure to go into the office, when it causes me more pain and fatigue (I can't either sit or stand for long periods of time).

    I have now been signed off work for a couple of weeks by my doctor and I am dreading going back. I feel like she has forgotten that I have this condition and that it does actually affect me, and that I am doing something wrong when I work at home, even though it was agreed upon. I think that the reason she didn't want to support my application for a pay review was because of my health and not because of my role - before I got ill I was praised so much and all the time for my work and my dedication. She only agreed to it when I seemed to be better, then when my health takes a turn for the worse, she submits my application but without letting me see her comments (which is what she was supposed to do and had agreed to do). I worry that she didn't support my application (she would show her support in her comments) because of my condition flaring up - it's possible she wrote nice comments but forgot to show me, but I've since asked to see them and she has ignored my request.

    I feel like they were so supportive in the beginning, but that despite my continued hard work and success, something has changed now that it seems I will not ever be completely better. I feel their perception of me has changed, and things like the main boss talking about my pain meds and my managers allusion to my slurry speech cos of the meds make me really paranoid that they see me differently, not because of my actual work, but because of my condition.

    I just have no idea what to do - it is really stressing me out and making me feel worse. I feel under pressure to go into the office more than I should, and to work late and on weekends and holidays (I was asked to work all Easter weekend by senior colleagues, yet then my manager reprimanded me for working on the weekend!)

    And I do the weekend/evening work because the main boss has changed her attitude to me so much, to the point of being kind of rude, dismissive and patronising to me that I just want to prove myself again so much. But I shouldn't have to do this, should I? I still do the job that is on my job description, and do it well. There are other staff members who have notoriously poor performance (my manager has even talked with me about one particular person) who have been upped a pay grade - and I don;t even have poor performance, just can't come in the office all the time and have to go to the doctor more often (which I make up for with evening working) and occasionally my speech is a bit funny cos of the meds, but my mind is still all there.

    Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Lighttouch's Avatar
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    Refused to give you a pay review. Are you a member of UNISON or another Trade Union. Contact Union rep and ask them to look at similar graded roles to see if you are underpaid. With new insight and Union backing it would be difficult for your manager to wriggle out of written contract.


    80% contract
    This may have a bearing on pay. What is this contract? Are you employed directly by the company for 4 days a week plus zero hours? The contract is the key to pay reviews and hours to work.


    Is it discrimination being treated differently - talking about you behind your back.


    Having managers bad mouth you when your back is turned isn’t very ’team’ spirited and you might feel this is more like harassment. You would need to gather documented evidence of times, places and obtain witnesses for this to stand a chance of sticking. In most companies ‘harassment’ is a very serious accusation and if proved will result in a sacking.


    In my view it’s a training issue. You would benefit from attending an ‘assertiveness training course’ to help you understand that you have ‘rights’ too. You have the right to confidentiality and the right to refuse additional work to your contracted hours.
    There is also an issue with your managers ‘attitude’ to your health/ If you contact Access to Work and ask if someone could come out to deliver a compulsory ‘disability awareness training session’ for managers - it would be free and perhaps enlighten your managers how well you are doing.


    Became disabled 18 months ago. In hospital for three weeks then started working from home.
    After a period of illness it’s only right that your employer makes ‘reasonable adjustments to the way you work. Working from home is a ‘reasonable adjustment’. under the Equality Duty Act.
    .
    The one thing you fail to mention is you haven’t been in touch with ‘Access to Work’. I’m assuming that you have been disabled for about 12 months. If so, phone Access to Work and ask for a work station ergonomic assessment to help you back into the office. You could look into an ergonomic chair, foot rest and a desk that you can adjust it’s height. You need to self refer to get the ball rolling.


    Flexible working. Now being questioned by manager.
    Was due a reappraisal 18 months ago - in new job role. Advertised at a higher pay grade.
    As mentioned check your contract and join union.


    Is it target performance related pay or graded based on Job description.
    I’m guessing that there should have been a 6 month review after starting new job. If you have reached certain benchmarks or targets then they can’t refuse a pay increase as that’s discrimination. However, if HR have changed the Person Spec and allocated certain duties elsewhere then the job may have been diluted and pay less.


    Manager failed to organise and cancelled proposed meeting with OT to help manage workload
    as she thought you were better.
    Before returning to work you may want to contact OH to ask them to confirm arrangements about ‘flexible working’ / working from home. But mention that you might be able to work in the office more often if Access to Work assessed your workstation.
    Training issue - ask to attend ‘Managing your time’ training day.

    Ridiculous workload - don’t work late.
    This is your own fault. You need to be assertive and learn how to say ’NO’ - training issue.

    Now signed off ill for a few weeks.
    Contact Union rep and Access to Work direct.


    You think that your manager has forgotten you have a fluctuating condition.
    Training issue for manager about disability issues.

    These are my views based on information at hand.

  3. #3
    Thanks so much for your response!

    I work in the public sector. I am on an 0.8 full time equivalent contract, which means I get paid 80% of the the full time salary for my role, and I am contracted to work 80% of a full time position (which is 30 hrs per week).

    Jobs are graded according to job description and whether the duties meet certain criteria. My job description has not been changed since I became ill, I still do the same duties. It did however change after I started the new role and before I became disabled, but I didn't have a pay grade review at that time. As my job description is the same as others on a higher grade, I feel I should have a pay review, but my manager kept saying she wouldn't support it without a good reason. When she thought I was better, she said she would support it, then when I got worse again I think she rescinded her support. Is that discrimination? It seems like it to me.

    I did contact Access to Work, and they pay for me to get taxis to the office when I go in as I can't drive. I haven't asked them for an assessment or for training or anything - I would feel uncomfortable suggesting to my manager that she and her boss take disability awareness training - how do you suggest going about this sensitively? I do feel they need to understand I have a disability and what it means for me, but I don't want to come across like I think they've been treating me badly as that could lead to all kinds of bad feeling and make me feel more paranoid and stressed!

    Managin your time training day sounds great, is that something access to work provide?

    I know I should say no to weekend/late working, but the reason I do it is because I feel that due to my condition and some of the comments from my managers, I need to prove myself to them in order to get them to support my pay review application, and to think of me as a normal and productive worker again. I am productive and do good work (which I know from external validation from other colleagues in other departments etc) but my managers will always send my work to these other colleagues with the proviso that 'sorry it might not be good' (they never used to do this!), but the response is always that it was fantastic, thanks very much etc. So I feel they have this preconception that my work will not be good as I am on pain meds or in pain. I think maybe the disability awareness training would help them with this, but again I'm not sure how to suggest it.

    I will join the Union, have already been looking into it, and will contact them.

    Thanks so much for reading my very long post and taking the time to reply to me. I have been so worried and confused about this, so I really appreciate it.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Lighttouch's Avatar
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    So you work a 4 day week on flex-time which is a good balance.

    Job description and roll. Your job will have been ‘job evaluated’ by corporate HR and a scale of pay attached to it. Unless your job is re-evaluated the pay scale cannot be changed or influenced by your manager. If you were to join UNISON, at about £15 a month for say scale 7 they could look at similar other posts and suggest it’s identical to one paying more. It’s best leaving it up to them to negotiate terms.


    You could also meet your department UNISON rep to explain that you feel discriminated or harassed and they would represent you at any meetings with HR.


    However, I do think all the issues you face relate to ‘lack of awareness about disability issues’ and training to give you more confidence.


    If you work from home you need to gain access to the Council’s ‘intranet’ in order to access your work emails. Contact corporate IT and put forward a business case why you need access.


    Next - join UNISON and arrange a meeting while you are off.


    Phone your Access to Work contact and ask if a specialist can come out to your work station to assess your access needs. Don’t worry about cost as the Council will have a special fund to contribute 20% off the costs. It won’t come out of your line managers budget.


    Staff development. Gain access to the Council’s intranet and look up ‘training and development’. You want to know if there are any courses running re ‘Time Management’ and ‘Assertiveness’ courses. If none are running presently ask if any are planned. Alternatively source training courses on the web then put a business case together as to what the ‘benefits are to the Council’ after you learn new skills. You need to be pro-active and rattle a few cages as you are interested in developing new skills.


    Disability Awareness Training. Get in touch with Access to Work and ask if they can give a Powerpoint presentation to new and existing managers about what AtW has to offer and include a Questions and Answers section.


    What you are doing is not creating problems but suggesting solutions - that is key!


    You also need to ask your line manager to arrange a 121 with you so you can raise your concerns. This will be a confidential productive meeting which allows you to mention the issues affecting your performance but the solutions and way forward. The meeting will be minuted with action points.


    Don’t work more hours than you are contracted to do. Your line manager is out of order sending emails to you at weekends about work - that has to stop. You have rights as you will find out once you’ve been on an assertiveness course. If there is more workb than you can cope with then that is a resource issue and not your problem. You’ve only got one pair of hands!


    You will gain people’s respect if you stand up for yourself.


    Work comes in like waves. If there is a very busy period then negotiate with your line manager ‘Time Off In Lieu’ TOIL before you start a busy period.


    Don’t let them undersell you. Phone up the clients you did work for and ask if they were happy with your input.They will give you positive praise where it is due.


    Remember, don’t be worried that you are disabled. Be proud of who you are and remember you’re as good as they are - stand up for your rights and be counted.

  5. #5
    Thanks so much for this supportive and encouraging post.

    I work for a University, not a council, so I don't get flexitime, sorry I didn't make that clear! My job was never actually reviewed by anyone, as I was first doing a maternity cover role, and they liked me so much they created a new role for me (completely different to the one I was doing before) and never had it reviewed - we added to the job description as I went along, they took sentences from these other job descriptions for other similar roles, and now my job title and description is that of a higher pay grade.

    My manager is a nice person and I can talk to her easily, except when it comes to the Head of Department (her boss). She initially loved me, but since I've been ill is kind of rude to me - she's the one who made comments to other colleagues about how I shouldn't do work when'gihg on pain meds' and second guesses me all the time now, doing things like in a meeting waving across the table at me and at colleagues around me to say 'is she taking notes? Make sure she's taking notes!' even though I was taking notes and that was my job at that meeting.

    She's said things before like 'I didn't expect that' when I did something good (under her breath to my manager in a sarcastic tone, but I heard it). And she is always nasty about other colleagues behind their backs, and in a personal and degrading way, followed by 'I'm not being mean...' so I can only imagine what she must say about me - her behaviour generally makes me so anxious that she tells other colleagues not to expect much from me because I'm high on drugs or something. I've tried to address this with my manager, but she loves the Head of Department, so she always brushes it off, even saying "You only feel like this because you respect her and want her to think well of you.' Er, no, I am worried she is making me look bad in front of other people (like she does with others), and she's the boss, so they will pay attention!

    Anyway, I will take all of your advice, and have already found assertiveness and time management courses on offer at my workplace. I can't face the disability awareness thing though, because they are all so busy and would probably be offended and annoyed if I made them do it (it's a small department and I'm the only disabled one there).

    I do feel more positive about it now, though, thanks to you, and more ready to tackle everything and be more confident to stand my ground and make sure we all do everything properly from now on. Thank you so much!

  6. #6
    Senior Member catlover's Avatar
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    It sounds as though there are lots of issues going on here and maybe you need to try to deal with them one at a time otherwise it just becomes overwhelming. Have you had any sort of health review since becoming disabled to look at your duties, workstation etc. to what you can still do, what you can't and what you can do with reasonable adjustments? It doesn't have to be through Access to Work. Last year I requested a workstation assessment following a deterioration in my condition and on the recommendation of my physiotherapist. I had to nag my manager to sort it (eventually I was mentioning it every day and asking him to chase it up) but eventually a nurse came (from a company my employer uses for these assessments) and did a very thorough review. She took me into a private room and asked lots of questions re my condition, the problems I had, what medication I took etc. and then came out to assess my workstation. She recommended a chair that gave my more support with a headrest etc, an adjustable footrest and ambidextrous vertical mouse that I could use with either hand. In my case only physical adjustments to my workstation were needed but if other adjustments to my duties had been necessary they would have been included. It was very thorough, lasting for over an hour. But the most important bit was a report was then produced which concluded that I could do my job with just some adjustments to my workstation and she made a specific suggestion as to what type of chair I needed and for the mouse. I have a copy of that report and once it was spelt out in the report my employer could not refuse to get these for me. I work in the public sector (for a local authority) and this assessment was sorted by occupational health.

    Have you had something like that? Can you contact your occupational health directly rather than waiting for your manager to do so? Make sure any requests to your manager for such a referral are put in writing - email your manager and copy in her manager if necessary and make sure you keep copies (print them out if need be). If there is no response you need to ask her directly and put her on the spot. You are entitled to an appointment with occupational health and you must insist on this. Once you've got that side of things sorted (how to manage your duties, what adjustments you need etc. including those to help you and your colleagues manage the fact that your condition fluctuates) and have it in writing then you can look at whether you can demand a pay review, whether you want to take any action about what is being said about you behind your back etc. I can't help feeling that you are trying to deal with everything at the same time and it's overwhelming you.

    Is there someone you can talk to at work in confidence? Most workplaces have a confidential grievance telephone line or someone you can speak to face to face. I often see signs up my workplace with contact details of someone to speak to about harassment, bullying etc. It might help you to see the way forward.

  7. #7

    Unhappy Is this bullying/harassment/discrimination? So worried.

    I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my situation at work.

    I wanted to see OH to find a good way of managing my pain and fatigue while at work, and my manager agreed to contact them while I was signed off sick. I went to a meeting on Thursday and spoke to a physician, who asked me a lot of questions, but didn't really give me much advice about what things I could try that hadn't already been done.

    He had a form that my manager had filled in and sent to them in advance. On it were a series of questions, some of which my manager had ticked to say she wanted answered. I'd not seen this form before and knew nothing about it. He went through the questions with me, which were all about whether I was likely to be ill for a long time etc. Then the last one asked if I met the criteria for 'ill-health retirement.' I was totally thrown by this, as my manager had never mentioned anything like this to me and it seemed to me as though this question was asking whether I could be 'let go.' The physician said I was too young for that anyway, but expressed surprise at the fact I hadn't been shown the form before. I asked to see it and he said that I should ask my manager but that legally I had a right to see it.

    After the meeting I looked on the OH website to find the 'Management Referral form' to see what it was like, and I found guidance stating that a Management Referral was for the express purpose of providing an assessment of and report on an employee's health to enable management to take a decision about an employee. It said that if the purpose was simply for supporting the employee and for their welfare, then they should be told to contact OH themselves for advice. It also said that the manager should show the employee the form and discuss its contents and make them aware of what decisions were being taken on OH advice.

    My manager had not done any of this, and had led me to believe, in fact outright told me, that I was going there only for advice on things like what chair I could get, or whether a standing desk would be good etc. I was confused, so I emailed her to say I wanted to see this form in advance of my return to work on Monday. She eventually sent it to me, and I was completely shocked by what she had written.

    She told OH that I had taken a considerable amount of time off (I'd had a major blood clot and surgery but returned to working from home (and even in the hospital!) within 3 weeks - she'd even told me to take this past 2 weeks off as I'd never had a significant period of time off). She told them my performance was not as good but that I didn't recognise this despite her trying to talk to me about it on numerous occasions. She has NEVER told me my performance was bad, EVER - I had asked her about this several times, even when we met 2 weeks ago, and every time she told me that I was paranoid, that it might be the drugs making me paranoid and that my performance was fine and I was managing so well. She said I was working from home too much, despite the fact we had agreed on this as a reasonable adjustment to help me deal with pain and so I could make it to GP appointments (my GP is near my home and not workplace) and she encouraged me to work form home. I even have emails I sent her asking her if I could come into the office!

    She then wrote that I am 'extremely paranoid' and she thinks I am depressed, and that she wants to talk to OH on the phone before they contact me. The only reason she told me I was paranoid is because I had sensed there was something she wasn't telling me about what she and her boss thought of my performance, due to the way they started treating me differently. She made me feel like I was going nuts, and attributed it to my pain medication, making the point several times over a long period of time that I once or twice slurred my words due to pain meds. But the contents of this form shows my paranoia was completely justified as she was thinking negatively of me but not telling me! I have also never told her I was depressed, nor have we discussed it. I can't believe it is okay for her to write this sort of thing about me while seeking advice on whether I can do my job, without telling me any of it! I went into that meeting thinking I was getting advice, but in reality the OH physician was approaching me as someone who was potentially mentally unstable and not performing well, and was checking to see if I was fit for my job, and I had no idea! Is this allowed?!

    Then under the section where it asks what they want to know specifically as the outcome of the assessment, she said she wanted to know if I was 'really capable of performing my role.' She has NEVER suggested that I was not capable of performing my role, let alone told me that this was the purpose of my visit to OH. In fact, I have only received positive feedback on my work and the effort put in, working evenings, weekends, Easter weekend, annual leave - she told me I was working too much, and more than made up for GP appointments with extra work (I have an email she sent me about this) but of course made no mention of that on this referral form.

    I am utterly devastated. I trusted her, I thought I was going mad for having this constant nagging feeling that there was something she wasn't telling me because she refused to support a pay review of my job despite my job description meeting all the criteria, and because she age different reasons each time, most of which related to my disability. She kept telling me I was so paranoid, and that I came across paranoid and drugged up in my emails to her, which made me more and more anxious and doubting myself and my confidence plummeted. But this form shows that I was right - she has even been considering whether she can get rid of me or remove me from my role due to my health!

    She sent this form to me yesterday and said we would go through it on Monday. She also told me she has the outcome of my pay review (which she eventually supported during a period of time where my condition was a bit better (it fluctuates)) to discuss on Monday - she didn't tell me the outcome meaning I have this on my mind as well all weekend. She could have not mentioned it and just told me on Monday so as to not cause me anxiety over the weekend.

    I have no idea what to do. I thought I would meet with her on Monday, discuss what my new schedule would be, when my at-home and in-office work hours would be, what equipment we could get etc., but I feel so betrayed and confused and angry I just don't want to work for her anymore. I have worked SO HARD for them, and to be treated like this just feels like a slap in the face.

    Do you think I am justified here if I put in a grievance claim against her? Does this seem like harassment or bullying? I feel that her telling me I was paranoid all the time when actually she wasn't being honest with me about anything was a very cruel psychological trick, causing me undue anxiety which contributed to the worsening of my condition. Any help or advice would be so appreciated. I'm sorry for the long post, I just really needed to get this all out as I am so very upset. Thank you.

  8. #8
    Senior Member beau's Avatar
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    Are you in a Union? If so this is something that they could help you with. If so contact them asap. Other than that ACAS may be able to help.

  9. #9
    Yes I am in a Union, I joined recently. I will contact them next week. I feel so confused about what's happening here - I just can't believe that apparently decent people would act this way. I think tomorrow I will just have to remain calm when I speak to my manager and ask her to explain? Or should I tell her I am very unhappy with the situation and am considering taking action?

    Do you think this sounds like harassment, or discrimination? Or something else? Thank you!

  10. #10
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    Others are better placed to advise on the sensitivities of the situation than I am, as I've never faced disability related problems in the workplace.


    I'd encourage you to think about what you would like out of this. If you want to try to keep your job, I'd encourage you to think of your boss as lacking in disability awareness until proven otherwise and try to work through the union to find a mutually agreeable solution. Once you resort to formal complaints and viewing the situation in more legal terms (discrimination, harassment and so on), you may well finish up with workplace relationships that are so damaged you will have no alternative to leaving even if you were in the right.

    Sometimes people's lack of disability awareness and understanding manifests in inappropriate ways, such as drawing attention to your symptoms and making comments from their position of uneasiness that come across as very hurtful. Your manager might have been looking for reassurance that you were capable of doing your job with reasonable adjustments, but I can see why the way she has handled it suggests she may be doubting your competency.


    I hope your union are able to offer you some support, and that you can remain calm and professional tomorrow. Maybe you can start from the perspective that both you and your manager are interested in you performing at your best, that you need some adjustments to do the job, but you feel you fully able to perform. It is up to you whether you are prepared to open up about your disability to her - it might be that giving her the chance to ask you questions fairly freely will reassure her, or it might give her ammunition to ease you out. Only you can read the situation, though it's possible she's feeling so unsure about the situation because she doesn't understand your disability.

    It is possible that your manager's behaviour is an inappropriate manifestation of her being unable to handle the way disability has changed you. Sometimes people attack what they wish they could change.

    My experiences of being badly treated have usually had the the root cause as lack of awareness, though there are some people who will use any perceived weakness to put people under pressure.


    I wish you well.

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