requesting accommodations at work: share your experiences

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m about to start the process of requesting accommodations at work. I’d like to hear about people’s experience doing this — what they asked for, how they asked for it, and what the outcome was.

I’m interested in stories in general, but especially if anyone has experience in requesting accommodations while working as a K-12 educator. I often see suggestions for managing chronic pain and fatigue that just aren’t doable if you teach, so I’d love to hear how people have dealt with that.

Okay, let’s talk accommodations — what did you ask for, how did you ask for it, what was the process like for you, and what was the outcome? Are there things that surprised you or that you wish you’d known about the process? Please share in the comment section.

{ 444 comments… read them below }

  1. StressedButOkay*

    Mine’s pretty simple but it had a good outcome! I developed carpal tunnel a few years ago and was trying to power through it until my doctor told me to ask for accommodations. I would never have thought to ask for accommodations for something like that!

    My work was amazing. I had a new keyboard and desk set up within a week of the ask and it massively helped the pain. We’re a super small organization, so the process was really easy.

    My takeaway was – ask. Always ask. It (generally) can’t hurt and you’ll be surprised at the results a lot of times.

    1. Lance*

      Out of curiosity, since I can’t really tell from your message… was it those specific things you asked for? Did the doctor suggest them, or was it something that you just worked through with the boss/whoever you went to at work to come up with something that should help?

      1. Name Required*

        I don’t know about StressedButOkay, but I have a similar story with my carpal tunnel. My doctor suggested these changes, so I asked for them, but no official documentation from my doctor was requested. All I need to do was ask. I think it helped that these are relatively well-known accommodations for carpal tunnel and not terribly onerous to implement.

      2. Goldfinch*

        I was having arm and wrist pain (on the road to carpal tunnel but not officially there yet), and got a convertible standing desk and an Evoluent vertical mouse.

        My GP recommended the categories of things to ask for, and I researched and read reviews myself. What I chose was below the “petty cash” limit, so it was easy for my boss to push through. If I’d needed something more expensive, I would have have to put in an official form.

        1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

          I have that mouse and LOVE it. All my pre-carpal tunnel twinges disappeared as soon as I switched.

        2. Anon Y. Mouse*

          I specifically asked for a specific keyboard and mouse that worked for me too. I didn’t need to do anything really specific because of the price point, but I did have to wait a little bit.
          Because of that wait, when the mouse stopped working (major OS upgrade and the drivers for the mouse wouldn’t carry over), I ordered the Penguin mouse myself because I just wasn’t going to be able to wait (just a day of using a regular mouse again and my wrist was burning like crazy).

          But on that logic, if I ever leave I can take the mouse with me.

          1. Vertical Mouse in the House*

            Everyone should use a vertical mouse. It’s so much better for your hand/arm/shoulder, whether you have Carpal Tunnel or not. They do take a little bit of getting used to, but it’s not a big deal. They even make vertical gaming versions, which a lot of pro gamers use.

            1. LG*

              I have been trying out vertical mice (?) — payout out of pocket because I am self-employed — but they all have been to large for my hands. I have small hands and have been using an old apple mouse for many years. I’d be interested if anyone with small hands has had a good experience with a specific vertical mouse! (If that’s not getting too far off-topic…sorry if it is!)

              1. C*

                Hi! I have very small hands and really love the Anker vertical mouse. I was getting wrist pain and it really helped!

      3. StressedButOkay*

        The doctor suggested the keyboard but, when I went to speak with management about the request, when they agreed on that, they made further suggestions about a few other things they would be willing to get for me! So it was both the doctor and my company.

    2. JSPA*

      I was shamed for not using the special keyboard (too big for my hands, made it worse). They did build me a wooden box to stand on, to raise my angle relative to the bench (after suggesting a chair, which only helped for the short stretch of bench with kick-space underneath). I never did tell them how often I fell off the box, though.

      I guess this is to say, if you can try out the “standard” solution ahead of time, and make sure it’ll work for you, do so, before asking for an expen$ive accommodation that people will resent you for not using.

      Would something like a power chair (self propelled wheelchair) be overkill, or a welcome respite? How about something as simple as extra chairs, for your use only, placed at different points in the classroom, if they don’t block egress?

      Basically, if I did it over, I would, in order: figure out what helps, first. Then ask your doctor to recommend it. Then bring that to your workplace. If you start with the “ergonomic specialist” or “accommodations person” at your workplace, you may get a square peg jammed in your round hole*.

      *Typed that innocently, looked again, decided it was actually about right as it stands.

      1. JSPA*

        Another anti-fix / wasted money: trackball in place of mouse. Also too big. Also suggested by the in-house specialist.

        1. Mongrel*

          The problem with the ergonomic devices is that there’s no One-size-fits-all, I have friends who swear by trackballs whereas I just swear at them. I prefer a natural keyboard layout and it seems everyone else hates them (although I’ve had pretty good results with a mechanical keyboard – the consistency of the key press and selectable weighting can help).

  2. Jules the 3rd*

    I would go in with recommendations from an official / semi-official support group. Maybe take a list from JAN (Job Accommodation Network), and number the ones that would be most useful to you, in priority order? Specific requests seem to work best, and something that signals ‘this is actually common and I am not weird for asking’ often helps.

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s a great idea, and I think it’s absolutely true that it’s easier for workplaces to approve a requested thing than to figure out what would accommodate you. That doesn’t mean they’ll always be limited to the specific thing, and if your manager/HR seems appropriately interactive you can say “I’d like to start with the standing desk but I’m open to other ideas if you have thoughts about what could help.”

    2. Allypopx*

      Wow thank you for sharing this resource! I’ve sort of cobbled together my own ADHD/Anxiety/Migraine accommodations over the years but this is much more official and thought out.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is a great point—you have a lot more control over your accommodations if you can help your employer pick through options instead of relying on them to devise an accommodation for you.

    4. Justme, The OG*

      I knew about JAN from a training I went to last week, but had no idea about that guide. That’s amazing. Thank you for posting.

    5. Thany*

      I came here to also recommend Its a great resource, especially for those who aren’t sure what to ask for or what accommodations can look like for them.

    6. irene*

      Oh, this is interesting! I’m struggling at work and it came to a head recently, and I’ve been despairing that without an official (expensive) diagnosis, it would be difficult to get reasonable accommodations, and anyway, we’re already doing so much that’s recommended, and it’s not working that well… I looked up my potential dx just now and going down the list of common accommodations….so much of what I’ve already identified as needing or being helpful are there! and I brought them up with my supervisor as “this is what would help, but I know it’s a huge ask” BUT augh if i had the dx and asked for these same things as ADA reasonable accommodations, it would probably go down a lot better.

      Thank you so much for the link!

      (I really appreciate these Ask the Reader posts. The discussions about ADHD described things in new ways for me last spring/summer, and when I made a big error recently and tried to describe where I thought I went wrong, I started putting pieces together. Anyway, I’ve got an EAP counselor as of last week who is strongly suggesting I get an official screening and possibly medication and possibly a lower stress job.)

    7. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      The great thing about JAN is that it’s not “you” asking … it’s an outside voice laying out all the possible accommodations – many of which you can cross off (so look at you being all reasonable and stuff!). And they’ve seen it all before, so there’s ideas that you might not have thought about.
      And even a few “case studies” so the employer can see how another company handled something without imploding.

  3. Elf*

    Very interested to see this – particularly from K-12 educators, and I’d like to hear whether people were tenured or untenured at the time.

    1. I need to get out*

      I could probably ask for accommodations for ADHD and anxiety but I’m not going to. Because if I am not thinking about the kids needs first and foremost and sacrificing myself in utterly inhuman ways then I am “not a team player” and am “not living up to my calling.” I could bring in my own mouse or chair etc if I paid for it myself but no money is available for anything other than our ($18Mil!) football stadium.

      I know my cynicism and negativity is showing and I’m sorry. But the fear of parent criticism has paralyzed my administration and today has been particularly eye opening. AAM is my lunch decompression.

      1. Bears Beets Battlestar*

        Exact same here. I would NEVER ask for ADHD accommodations at work even though I need them because the admin are adamant about students having more accommodations than they need, but teachers can’t ask for any or we will be seen as unfit teachers and they will find a way to get rid of us.

        1. ADHsquirrelWhat?*

          Which especially is awful because kids benefit SO MUCH from finding out adults they respect have the same issues they do! I would be THRILLED if one of my son’s teachers taught while playing with a fidget cube or something similar!

          instead, it’s all the accommodation you could ever need – until you leave school, at which point you’re better now, right? /eyeroll gag snarl etc/

          1. Captain Raymond Holt*

            It would also normalize these kinds of accommodations for kids who don’t have anyone in their lives who uses them, or for kids who are getting ableist messages outside the classroom.

          2. Margo*

            I’m in the same boat as the letter writer , as I’m also about to ask for accommodations from my district. I’ve been considering whether I should use that very point as part of my argument if needed – that this is actually an opportunity for me to model for my students how to ask for and work successfully with accommodations.

        2. just a random teacher*

          I am SO TIRED of the attitude that teachers need to be perfect and only the students are allowed to ever need accommodations of any kind, rather than the idea that the world is full of all kinds of people and it’s good for the kids to see how people adapt their situations to suit their needs. I’m lucky to be in a position now that fits pretty well with what I need, but my process for getting there had nothing to do with asking for accommodations and everything to do with job hunting for a really long time trying to find the right fit.

          I have seen several teachers successfully get ergonomic items after a pretty involved process, but that’s about the only thing I’ve ever seen actually come through. I know a teacher in our building is supposed to finally get her ergonomic desk next week, and she started the process last school year.

        3. Chinookwind*

          And this shows up in the strangest ways. I was teaching at a school when it burned down during the school day at 11 a.m back on 2001 (so before wide use of cellphones). No one was injured (but the school was destroyed except for the gym) but it took about 2 hours for us to get organized enough to contact parents/guardians and sign every child back into the hands of the appropriate adult.

          As a result, some nice ladies brought juice and sandwiches for the kids because it was lunch time. When I went to grab one because I was hungry, one of the ladies grabbed it away from me and said it was for the kids. I looked her in the eye and said “my lunch was burned up too,” grabbed it back and went back to the 25 grade 7 students I was trying to keep track of until their parents came (not easy when they were concerned about younger siblings at the school and having access to only one pay phone).

          I was later talked to about taking things away from the kids and I got angry, pointing out that I had just gone through the exact same thing they did only with more legal responsibility and potential job loss as well as also knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to leave to get food until hours after the kids were picked up.

          Could I have handled it better? Yes but, in my defense, the school was still burning when the follow-up conversation was happening (and they were working, successfully, from it spreading to neighbouring houses). All it would have taken was one half sandwich given without attitude and they would have hand the most grateful teacher ever but instead they got the attitude they gave.

          1. Purple*

            What is wrong with people? I’m so sorry you got that attitude for doing something totally normal.

    2. I love pi*

      I always state my disability straight out in interviews (I know Allison would not recommend this) because a. I can’t hide the scar on the side of my neck, b. I need to explain why I can only work part-time and C. if the administration feels tricked they can make your life hell.

      But even with that I still had problems with accommodations. I asked for a document camera to patch into the EXISTING projector system. It would allow me to project textbook pages, notes, and work math problems on white paper from my desk with my chair (which they did actually provide as an accommodation). Instead they decided to get me an overhead projector out of the storage room. I had to copy notes, theorems, quizzes, etc. onto transparencies, which by the end of the year would have probably cost almost as much in ink and paper as the $200 piece of equipment I’d asked for. But the worst was that I had to stand in the middle of the room to line it up with the screen and I had to work at an angle so I wasn’t in front of the lens. After 4 months I finally was told to order the document camera and take the money out of the lab equipment budget. I was told that I wasn’t thinking about the kids.

  4. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I have a spinal injury so I have a height adjustable desk that I can use sitting or standing. That one was easy. I just brought my diagnosis and MRT pictures to the company physician, he took one look, went ‘Yeah, you need that desk’, and sent in the paperwork to my department secretary.

    Then facility management fucked up the order. Instead of getting ONE desk after a month or two I got TWO desk half a year later…

    I also requested a window seat, if possible with window on the right. The window is for mental health reasons and I’m mostly deaf in my right ear, so putting me with my good ear to the room is a thing of common sense.

    I’m also on the autism spectrum and my sensory processing is a bit off. I have LED lamps for my desk and the fluorescent tubes above my desk switched off. Because the flickery light of the fluorescent tubes gives me one hell of a head ache. Getting that one through was terrible. Had my psychiatrist write a letter, company physician agreed, but facility management had to be dragged kicking and screaming.

    Anyway. Find out if there is a disability council or something where you work. They should be able to help.

    1. Neosmom*

      Love my sit / stand riser addition to my desk. My boss (and our company president) saw me painfully stand up to go do something and was concerned. We do not have an HR department, but I found a sit / stand desktop online at our office supply distributor’s website, and sent a link to it to my boss requesting it. I further offered to get a medical opinion if he felt we would need it. He approved the request no question. I have been using it since late June and it is fantastic.

      It is wonderful to work for an employer who recognized the issue and readily agreed to a simple solution.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        My office provides standing desks, where the whole thing raises up when you want to stand. Unfortunately I’m short, so the monitors were then too high when I was seated. So I requested a keyboard tray, which I set on the desk and then raise the monitors up on their own base. They were happy to provide it.

    2. OhNo*

      I’ve never worked at a place that had a disability council, so I wonder if that not a thing in the US? In general, though, I agree with your advice to look for more info and help.

      In my experience, start by figuring out who has to approve accommodations (your boss, your department head, or HR?), and who will pay for the accommodations (department budget, wellness budget, or general company coffers?) – getting both of those groups on your side before submitting any documentation will speed the process along considerably.

      It’s one thing to see a random request form cross your desk from some guy you’ve only vaguely heard of, but you’re much more likely to hop to and get it done quick if the request is from Friendly Fran in accounting, who told you to expect it three days ago.

    3. lilsheba*

      I have had lights switched off above my head for years until we moved to this building, and now they say they can’t switch them off because they have some weird energy saving thing, so all the lights have to stay on now. The fluorescent lights promote migraines in me. So no accommodation there anymore, or from the constant noise which overload my senses. I get to just suffer. What I need is to be able to work from home where I can control my environment. But they won’t let us because we are call center people and don’t get treated like normal adults.

  5. Quill*

    Only thing I’ve had to request is dress code accomodations (I can only wear tennis shoes) but that’s gone well pretty much everywhere I’ve actually had to mention it.

      1. Quill*

        No but I’d support them if they did, foot health is no joke and the damage that our “professional” shoes do over a lifetime, especially to women (see: heels, shitty design, etc.), is cumulative.

        1. Junior Dev*

          +1. It really sucks that we have a system where you often can’t get accommodations until after you’ve already been injured.

        2. lilsheba*

          I so agree with that! Heels are VERY bad for your feet and should never be required. I can only wear tennis shoes too.

    1. Amcb13*

      At some point early in my teaching career I realized that I was a much better teacher on Fridays when I got to wear jeans and sneakers than the rest of the week when I was wearing painful “professional” shoes. Eventually I just got a pair of solid black sneakers to wear with slacks and a pair of vaguely non-sneaker-looking sneakers for the days I wore dresses…and no one ever commented! And this was in a school system where we had like a 50-point checklist for classroom wall displays, a 19-point checklist for hallway bulletin boards, and a constant fear of the dreaded “letter to file” that could tank your future in the entire metropolitan area.

    2. TardyTardis*

      I always wore oxfords, and since they were black, could wax nostalgic about Those Great Old Air Force Days–enough of the bigwigs were veterans that they let it fly. I always winced when I saw the VP wannabee in spike heels…but she did it to herself, the Boss of all Bosses wore blue jeans and cowboy boots.

    3. A*

      As someone who does not need this accommodation – but has benefited fm other’s accommodation requests – I thank you! I’ve had two previous employers revise their dress codes (one of them eliminated it altogether) after needing to make medical accommodations allowing sneakers. In both instances the dress codes were really outdated and unnecessary, and the request for accommodation highlighted the need for revision because it begged the question … “why didn’t we allow sneakers”?!

  6. HerGirlFriday*

    The chairs at a previous employer’s were abysmal and I was constantly battling backaches and leg cramps. My supervisor was told he did not have the departmental budget for new furniture that year, so he approved the order an inexpensive seat cushion and back cushion through our office supply vendor. The head of purchasing denied it, but he went to bat for me. “If I approved it and I have the supply budget for it, what’s the problem? They’re in the catalog and in our special ordering system. Unless you can find her a better chair, then you need to place the order.”
    Magically, a better chair for me was found. Not new, which I didn’t care about, but still better. Most of the adjustable levers on it worked and the cushioning wasn’t completely gone.
    The next year we had a new president, a new head of purchasing, and the budget for new furniture for the entrance to our department, which included a new desk and chair for me.
    Having a boss in your corner goes a long way.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Holy guacamole, that reminds me of another budget story…now what was that again?
      But your story sounds like the straw that that er, um, well, you know. Because when someone high up enough discovered that employees were being prohibited from purchasing equipment by those who’s job it was to do so they cleaned house. How much time was spent/wasted making managers jump through hoops and finding Plan B’s? I’d love to the see the look on my division manager’s face if people were searching through conference and storage rooms for a better chair for someone.

      1. just a random teacher*

        I’m in education, and no one would bat an eye if people were rummaging around in storage rooms and warehouses looking for a different chair for someone. That’s an actual, specific thing that people go do in every district I’ve ever taught in. We did that in my building earlier this year since the cylinder in my old chair gave out and only reluctantly bought a new chair after turning the warehouse upside down looking for one that might work.

        I once found the coolest height-adjustable metal table (on casters, even!) in an abandoned woodshop given over to storage. I dragged it back to my classroom and used it as a lectern until I left that school two years later, because it was the only standing-height table I could find. I also played “find Cinderella” with my existing file cabinet key on all of the stored file cabinets in that woodshop until I found a second file cabinet that I could lock with my existing key since I really needed more locking storage. (I had no way to put in a work order with a locksmith to get anything re-keyed. It was easier to just find another cabinet that took my key, since that only wasted my own time. There were plenty of cabinets with locks but no key taped to them, since no one wanted one that didn’t come with a key.)

        I consider myself lucky to be in a school where, for the first time in my career, the school will buy me all of the whiteboard markers and gel pens I want. It’s also the first place where I could just use colored paper in the copy machine if I wanted to, no need to buy it myself specially.

    2. OhNo*

      Agreed, having the support of your boss can make a world of difference. They might be able to go to bat for you, or they might know who to contact to get things done, or how to streamline the process so things move faster, or any of a hundred other different things.

      Accommodations can be gotten in spite of a bad boss, too, of course. But when they’re on your side, the process can be so much easier.

  7. JokeyJules*

    At my company, some accommodations can be made even without documentation. When I needed the ergonomic mouse because my wrists were starting to hurt at the end of the day, they just ordered it, no questions asked. Working from home, a different chair, a yoga ball instead of a chair, standing desk, screen filters, stuff like that can be arranged or expensed no problem.

    I’m not sure about anything more than that in my own personal experience, though i will say when they implied that i was expected to attend an after-work event that sounded like absolutely torture for me because of my anxiety, as soon as i told them that it was dropped and never mentioned again, and i wasn’t docked for it.

    At my company now, just ask. If they can just take care of it they will, if they need more you can sort that out.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, I think that’s pretty common. Lots of us at my workplace have had different chairs, adjustable desks, ergo keyboards, etc. without its being couched as disability accommodation.

          1. Quill*

            Very nice for doing chair yoga, which does help with my tendonitis, and also nice for those days when sitting down is just a temptation to nap face down in your keyboard.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I would love an adjustable desk, but my company will only do it with a doctor’s request and I don’t really have a medical need for it.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          You might ask for a regular desk converter, they’ve gotten cheaper recently. Google ‘standing desk converter’

          1. Justme, The OG*

            I ordered those for the whole team at my job, they’re really nice and fairly affordable.

        2. JokeyJules*

          i’m sorry to hear that! in our office about half of the staff have them just because they felt they wanted it. our company really tries to balance the “do whatever it takes to get the report to the client on time” culture by also having a “we’ll give you whatever you need within reason to help you get the report to the client on time” culture

        1. Witchy Human*

          I had to get one for ergonomic desk adjustments–while my arm was still in a sling after tendon surgery.

    2. Elemeno P.*

      I wrote out a whole thing for why I would like a backpack for my work laptop instead of a standard bag, and they were like “All you needed to say was that you wanted one, no worries.”

      1. JokeyJules*

        that’s how my office is. it makes it a lot more work for a bunch more people to escalate things to corporate, so usually if you just ask we’ll order it for you, or you can just expense it. the only exceptions would be if the cost were more than like $300.

      2. Green great dragon*

        Yeh, I wanted a new mouse because I thought I was maybe heading towards carpal tunnel and boss just waved vaguely towards the catalogue and said find one and order it.

        Current set-up with laptop docked: two screens, two keyboards, two mice and a touchpad.

      3. Jadelyn*

        Same. I’m always terrified to ask for things that would make my job easier, and it took weeks to scrape up the courage to ask my boss if the company would purchase a rollermouse for me to use at work so I didn’t have to keep hauling my personal one back and forth every day, because the rollermouse is like $250 (ish, this was years ago).

        I finally sent this email that I had *agonized* over the wording on, something like “the physical therapist I worked with on my RSI recommended a rollermouse, and I bought one that I’ve been bringing to work with me every day, but I was wondering if the company would be willing to purchase one that stays at my workstation so I can stop hauling my own equipment to/from work every day?” And I was bracing myself for a “no” because technically I didn’t *need* it, since I had my own and had been making do, so I thought I was being selfish by even asking.

        My boss took all of about 3 minutes to reply with his approval, and also let me know that I could borrow his corporate card to order it, if I didn’t have room on my corporate card to do it. And now I’m researching upgraded monitors for both of us at his request, since we do a ton of data processing work and he’s sick of squinting at our little 19″ screens to do it.

        Sometimes we get all worked up thinking it’ll be a Huge Deal, and then…it’s nothing.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      At Exjob, if you requested anything desk/mouse related, they made you take an ergonomic assessment first. I didn’t mind that; it helped me adjust my chair more comfortably. I got a nice trackball mouse since I was having some pain in my hand related to the regular one.

    4. TardyTardis*

      At old Ex-Job, the chairs had to be a certain height at the desks Because Reasons, so I wangled a slanted footstool so my feet wouldn’t dangle (I’m not quite as short or round as the grandma in ABOMINABLE, but I’m probably headed there).

  8. Sabina*

    Not my experience, but my husband’s. He was an elementary school teacher in a very small, rural school district. He requested a very easy to fulfil accommodation…basically a standing desk to help with some back problems. He got nothing but grief. His special desk kept being “accidently” moved or given to another teacher who didn’t need it. The background to this story is that he was the victim of some pretty obvious age discrimination and ended up being forced into early retirement (though with union help he got a pretty good golden handshake).

    1. 1234*

      Someone at my office has a standing desk but it’s the type that goes on top of a regular desk. It was so heavy that it took two of us to lift it. IDK how anyone could “accidentally” move it.

  9. Jessabeth*

    So my experience has been mostly good, but I work at a large org. that also has a full ADA office that only works on these sorts of things. I have an invisible disability that is fairly new to me and I’m still learning how to navigate it. I went in not even knowing what to request because I didn’t really know what I needed. We came up with some basics, and I check in every 6 months or so to talk through how they’re working and twerk/request additional ones. I’ve found myself talking through issues I’ve found I have and that helps them help me figure out things that might work to add in. I’ve also asked “what exactly would be considered a ‘reasonable’ accommodation? I feel like there’s things I’d want but don’t know if it would be considered reasonable.” And they definitely helped explain it, that all accommodations are different for each person and they can take time to get right. And as the person above said, Just Ask- you might be surprised, and even if they can’t do the full thing you asked for, there might be a compromise accommodation. The process is also helping me be more comfortable advocating for yourself, which i am still working on being better at.
    I’m really interested to hear what other people’s experiences have been as well!

    1. sparty07*

      I know that this was a type, but with some of the odd letters that Alison has gotten it’s not too far fetched to see someone write in because they had to twerk in order to get something done. Thanks for the quick laugh

      “I check in every 6 months or so to talk through how they’re working and twerk/request additional ones.”

  10. New Mom*

    When I came back from maternity leave, I had a new office with an uncomfortable chair. At that point, I had some serious pelvic issues I was going to physical therapy for and sitting at all was painful, but this chair was excruciating. I talked to our HR person and laid out my issue, saying “Thank you for tinting my door for me for nursing, the office is working really well for that. One issue I’ve run into is that I’m having a lot of pelvic pain post-birth, which I’m in physical therapy for. I’m hoping it’ll resolve in a few months, but in the meantime, could we get a more ergonomic chair for my desk. Ideally I’d like one that tilts forward and takes some of the pressure off. I’ve tried my yoga ball and a pillow, but I think a chair with more flexibility would really help me sit without pain.” I did offer to show documentation if she needed it, but she didn’t. I tried to acknowledge an accommodation they had already given – creating a nursing space for me by tinting my office window – and then follow it up for a request. They let me go to our furniture supplier (they refurbish chairs and sell them at a discount) and pick out my own chair.

    I also requested accommodation from my manager directly, asking for two days to work from home a week since I had a 6 week maternity leave. I asked him when I returned from leave and laid out what I was dealing with – long commute and no sleep – and that I felt for now it would make me so much more productive to get some of that commuting energy back. He didn’t hesitate – in large part because I think he was really afraid I wouldn’t come back at all. We need my job, though, so that wasn’t really on the table for me.

  11. bubba g*

    I am a high school teacher with severe osteoarthritis, and have had multiple joint replacements. My district was more than accommodating in moving my classroom near the restrooms/office (I had been in the South 40) after my first joint replacement.
    When I changed sites, the district office placed handicapped grab bars/railing in the restroom closest to my classroom within days of my request. There is a handicapped/wheelchair accessible bathroom, but it is a ways away from my classroom.
    I can walk without assistance, just not long distances. As a high school teacher, I can sit more than an elementary teacher.
    I found that all I had to do is ask, and the district was more than willing to accommodate me. We are a district of about 33,000 students, and I know we have some teachers in wheelchairs and those who use other mobility devices. One of the harder things is that while there are ramps into ALL classrooms for wheelchairs, the doors can be quite difficult to open when using a wheelchair or other mobility device.
    Ask for accommodation!

    1. bubba g*

      Oh, and to answer another poster’s comment, I am tenured, but it really wouldn’t make any difference where O work. They are committed to doing the right hing.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I’m glad to hear that I am not in alone in my good experience with teacher accommodations, bubba g!

    3. Vin Packer*

      This is so great! Disabled students can use those things, too, so there’s just no good reason not have things like handrails. In fact, you would think that, since schools deal with disability accommodations for students *all the time,* they’d be good at it, but some aren’t, and even the ones that are really supportive of students not always supportive of disabilities in teachers.

      It is hard, because the job of teaching K-12 can run the entire gamut of tediously sedentary to action-movie bonkers on any given day. In a job where you never really know what you’re gonna get, it’s hard to anticipate your limits and needs. But it sounds like you were able to make a list of concrete things that helped you on a daily basis, which is so heartening!

      Do you ever just buy your own things for your classroom, like standing desk or whatever, with the understanding that it’s yours and not the school’s? Teachers absolutely shouldn’t have to outfit their classrooms out of their own pocket, but since you often do, is it possible to just bring in the thing you need without asking anybody for permission (just like you didn’t have to ask to bring the 150 boxes of colored pencils or so forth)?

      1. bubba g*

        I certainly buy stuff for my classroom and for student use, but we really aren’t expected to buy teacher desks/chairs, etc. I built a shelf unit for student work (kind of like staff mailboxes in the faculty room), and a table that extends the size of my desk, and I’ll probably take the table with me when I retire in 2022, but I have no use at home for the shelf unit. I’ll offer it to my replacement, or another teacher on staff.
        I built these because what I wanted I couldn’t find in the supply catalogs of our vendors, and purchased would cost more than my budget for items like paper, pencils, kleenex, etc. I only get $250 per year for those items, and actually it usually is enough (depending upon grade level and subject taught, the amount can be more). The most expensive item is ink for the printer, but I have a high capacity printer, and the first ink cartridge each year is free, so I rarely have to “buy” ink out of my budget. :)
        Our district supplies a teacher desk, surfacepro (along with a large desk monitor) printer, projector, document camera, and such.
        As a high school teacher, I don’t spend nearly as much of my own money on student supplies as elementary teachers do. In fact, when my friends at elementary school are out of kleenex and budget, and it’s only March, I tell them to come over and get what they need from me. Same with pencils. I have to do it on the down low, because if I am giving away all my stuff, then I might not need $250 for supplies. Teachers are almost always willing to help colleagues, and teaching elementary is tough, so I give whatever I can to colleagues.

  12. huette*

    Mine was a simple ask as well – a sit/stand desk. I was organized and obtained a letter from my healthcare provider. It was a bit “weird” asking since I was the only one asking for it and I am relatively new to the organization (2 years at the time.) I asked HR about it and then emailed my boss. In part this is what I said:

    “I have been hesitant to request anything in the past, but decided it was time to ask for some help in the form of a sit/stand desk. . . . I have been seeking treatment from a variety of professionals for *lame ailment* and related complications. I thought it best to let you know since this request will likely come to you. I will appreciate it if you kept this information to yourself.”

    That was it, the desk was ordered I received it maybe a month later. I had a lot of comments from colleagues, I suspect that I might be viewed as bit “high maintenance” because of it. I don’t know for sure and frankly don’t care. I manage a small team and it was my way of demonstrating that you can/should ask for help when needed and receive it.

  13. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Years ago (20+), I wanted a wrist support. You know, a long gel thingie that sits at the bottom of the keyboard to relieve carpal tunnel, etc.. Back then, my desk was not adjustable at all, no keyboard tray and certainly nothing was wireless. It was met with much resistance until the niece of the owner pointed out I had been hit by a car earlier that year (and it was true) and it was approved. It was so silly. My wrist was not injured by the car, my foot was but no one was telling that to the purchasing manager.

    Be prepared to justify yourself if your employer is tight with funds.

    That kind of thing is so standard today but they were so, so cheap at that place.

    1. CR*

      That’s the kind of thing I would just buy myself rather than trying to get it approved and paid for by work.

      1. SarahKay*

        I’d say it’s at least worth asking first. We usually keep one in stock in the stationery cupboard, and would certainly add one to the next order if requested. Fortunately I work for a company that takes Health and Safety very seriously indeed, and will spend money on HSE-required items / training / acoomodations even when there’s cost-cutting everywhere else.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        oh, no, that stuff is standard business cost. If a business can’t afford to supply its employees properly, they shouldn’t be in business. (this does not apply to non-businesses like schools or non-profits, I give them more leeway)

        1. Allypopx*

          Eh. I can see if it’s something small that you’ll take with you when you leave, not wanting to go through the reimbursement process for like…$12. But I also have a hard time going through “official processes” in general so that might just be me.

          1. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

            Back in 1996, it might not have been 12 bucks but more likely double that or more. And we were paid a pittance by that company and $12 bucks was big on my budget when earning $22,000.

            1. Allypopx*

              Oh if you ask for it the employer should 100% be on the hook for basic office supplies, including accommodations so you can do your job comfortably. I was just echoing CR’s sentiment that I’d probably buy something like this myself if the company had a slog of request process.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Sure, it’s standard business cost – but depending on the company, it’s a lot less hassle to just buy it yourself (assuming it’s something you can afford) than to jump through hoops and argue with people about it.

        3. A*

          I mean, sure – but that’s a pretty broad paintbrush. I live in a rural area where jobs are few and far between – I’d never risk my financial stability on arguing over a few dollars worth of supplies. Does that means my employer is overly cheap, shouldn’t be in business etc. etc? Maybe. But that doesn’t change things for me.

  14. M*

    My accommodation was fairly straightforward, but I needed a standing desk to accommodate a hip issue. My chiropractor initially recommended the idea to me, and I inquired at work about the possibility. For reference, I work for a very large technology company, and I am a fully remote employee. Because I am a remote employee with no assigned desk in an office space, this was/is a desk that would be in my home.

    I worked with my company’s ergonomic adviser, and had to submit an application detailing my request (standing desk) and a note from my doctor detailing the medical necessity. I also had to submit pictures of my current desk set up so that the ergonomic adviser could evaluate what my needs were. I spoke with him on the phone a couple of times, and we decided on a desk and chair that would fit my specifications. Though it required a degree of back and forth, the application process was relatively straightforward.

    Now, here’s where things got complicated. I started the process of getting a standing desk in July of 2018. I was advised that the desk would take ~10 weeks to be ordered, built and delivered. After months of hearing nothing from either the supplier or my company, I started to get impatient. I sent follow up emails multiple times, but heard nothing back. In the meantime I was seeing my chiropractor weekly to deal with my hip issue, and she let me know in November of 2018 that my hip was not getting any better, and that in fact, it was getting worse. I then went back to my company and obliquely mentioned worker’s comp. While my initial injury was not work related, the fact that it was getting worse due to my job’s inaction was work related. Within a week of the worker’s comp email, my desk and chair were delivered and installed in my house. All in all, the process took about six months.

    I found that the application and approval process was not that difficult, my doctor was willing to write me a note and supported my request for a standing desk. It was the months of no contact and inaction on my employer’s part that was the most aggravating. I would advise following up frequently to ensure that your request is being processed properly and in a timely manner. Overall it was a positive outcome, but not without some stress along the way.

  15. Muriel Heslop*

    I am a K-12 educator (middle school) and the chairperson of my department. We make a number of accommodations for our faculty and staff. We have a teacher that sits all day (lupus), we have a teacher that has ADHD and has asked for a room with no windows, we have an aide who uses a cane and the elevator, we have a teacher that no longer does her own ARD paperwork because of stress, we have an aide who uses a cart because her arthritis prevents her from carrying her materials. Nothing super complicated! Maybe it’s because we spend all day making accommodations for our students that it isn’t a jump in logic or compassion to do it for our people. It may be different in other departments at our school but our principal is a pretty low-drama guy and is a believer in giving people what they want within reason.

    For context, I’m in a state with no teacher unions.

    Good luck, OP!

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          User names are both references to Muriel’s Wedding, and “You’re terrible, Muriel” is a line from the (excellent) movie.

        2. I Go OnAnonAnonAnon*

          Its a joke based on user name: “In her original 1994 incarnation, Muriel Heslop is the social pariah of the coastal backwater town Porpoise Spit. “

        3. Sally O’Malley*

          Ahh, thanks! I read and re-read the response and couldn’t make out anything terrible. LOL

      1. Allypopx*

        I’ve had dozens of classrooms with no windows between kindergarten and my masters degree, I’m sure it’s fine.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          I’m thinking more of a safety issue since kids are told to leave through windows during an active shooter situation.

          1. Allypopx*

            Ahhh yes. But so many schools were designed this way before that was such a widespread issue, you have to assume there are alternatives. My husband’s school has laid out escape routes or places to hide, they adapt.

          2. Elenna*

            There were a bunch of classrooms without windows in my high school, and the plan was basically to huddle quietly in the back of the classroom where we couldn’t be seen from outside the door. Probably not the safest thing, but then I’m not sure a classroom full of students going out windows would be super safe either.

          3. Cascadia*

            We have windows that don’t open in some classrooms, and there are many classrooms that are on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th floors of the building. No one is going out those windows.

          4. bubba g*

            Our district recently updated the locks in every classroom in the district. It was first done about 6 years ago, to locks that could be locked with a simple flip of a handle, meaning not having to step outside to lock the door during a lockdown. The new locks are even better, and safer, but not quite as fast. Takes about 10-15 seconds as opposed to 2-3 seconds. The locks are MUCH better.

      2. Urdnot Bakara*

        This was pretty normal when I was in school! Unless your school is long and narrow, you’re going to have internal hallways with classrooms that don’t have an exterior wall.

      3. Muriel Heslop*

        Our interior classrooms have no windows. The window classrooms are very desired by teachers so accommodating that teacher’s request was really easy.

        (And we still practice active shooter drills so we have a procedure that doesn’t include window evacuations. Plus, our students in wheelchairs can’t evacuate through a window. Emergency drills are a little different for SPED.)

      4. Choux*

        Ha, my middle school was built in the 70s during the “open learning” craze, which basically meant there were like 3 classrooms that had windows and walls. Mostly there were just dividers between us and the next class. It was a nightmare.

        I shudder to think about an active shooter situation in that building. Luckily they realized in the 2000s that it was a really horrible building and they turned it into administrative offices and built a new middle school.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Hmmm…. I wonder if there is any correlation between those open learning buildings and the current state of most office environments.

      5. Beancounter Eric*

        The three schools I attended from elementary through High School were all built without windows. All were built in the 1970’s, during the heyday of “Open Classroom” design (think cube-farm for third-graders)….the argument was that windows are a distraction.

        The bigger distraction was hearing Teacher X three “doors” down teaching whatever while trying to take a test on material being taught by your Teacher Y. Good times.

        By the early 1980’s, the School System went and retro-fitted walls & doors to control noise.

      6. CatMintCat*

        I’m surprised it’s legal to have rooms without windows. I’ve been involved in education since 1964 (student, parent, teacher) in many, many schools at all levels and have never seen such a thing. And would kick up an almighty stink if I were expected to work in a cave without natural light, or my children were.

        1. WellRed*

          I’ve never seen a school with interior classrooms, including university. Maybe it’s a regional design thing?

          1. Jen X*

            I’d say the majority of my university classrooms were without windows, especially the lecture halls. Maybe it made the rooms easier to heat? (My Canadian city gets cold winters!)

    1. Mary Anne Spier*

      I’m a special ed teacher. What’s ARD paperwork? Is that like IEP paperwork? Wow, I’m shocked you would be permitted to not have to do that due to stress.

      1. Allypopx*

        My husband teaches special ed and my understanding is an ARD is the process that comes before an official IEP. I assume the paperwork is still done, maybe she has a workload where paperwork is a huge stress trigger because it’s time consuming and keeps her from other tasks so there’s an assistant of some kind. That would be my guess, I’m sure other scenarios make sense too.

        1. Muriel Heslop*

          ARD stands for Admission Review Dismissal – it’s the acronym we use for the process and IEP meeting. We have another member of our department (usually me or the department assistant chair) complete the official paperwork. She has taken on other duties that are substantially less stressful for her that free up some administrative time for our department so we have time to do paperwork for her caseload. The person who completes the paperwork attends the meeting. Given this teacher’s particular circumstances, it was pretty easy for us to accommodate. She isn’t doing a modified amount of work – just different work.

  16. syllepsis*

    Boy oh boy. I work in academic administration in the UK, and had a hell of a time asking for accommodations for my anxiety, chronic depression, and autism.

    A request to work from home the day after my weekly therapy session turned into grudging permission to work from home one day a week outside of term time, provided everyone else on the team could be in the office. (My therapy sessions do not respect the academic year.) My request to wear headphones to shut out conversation in our very chatty office was permitted ‘only when absolutely necessary,’ and a traffic light system to indicate my capacity for casual chat with others in the office was shot down by my manager. I had multiple meetings with occupational health and the disability advisory service, but none of them led to any actionable advice. My institution is very old and fragmented, but even taking that into account, it was a struggle to persuade anyone to take my situation seriously. Even when I succeeded, every compromise I was offered felt like a major imposition.

    Ultimately, I was signed off ill for a week after staffing issues and a continued lack of accommodations led to debilitating fatigue. My return-to-work meeting entailed my manager listing all the things that hadn’t been done in my absence, leaving me in tears. I now work elsewhere within the same institution, and have been startled by the improvement in my health as a result! My new manager is very practical, and the environment feels much healthier, to the point where I no longer need many of the accommodations I asked for in my previous job.

    I don’t say any of this to scare you, OP — just be aware of what can go wrong, document everything, and talk to Citizen’s Advice (or your union, or any other bodies that can help inform you re: your rights) if you aren’t sure at any point.

    1. Anonymous Aspie*

      Similar story. I had a job where my manager didn’t follow through on accommodations, then was constantly having “gentle talks” with me about how I had to get “better at managing stress” (I’m autistic, I was constantly overloaded and was starting to experience selective mutism for the first time due to the extreme stress caused largely by this manager’s behaviour towards me). The conversation never got past my “behaviour” to the accommodations I still, desperately needed! Now I’m in a different department and have a manager who works with me, supports me doing what I need to do and helps where I need his authority – and it’s like a different world.

      1. Aspie AF*

        Same here. It was so clear to me that my constant state of anxiety was environmentally caused, but the onus was always on me to change.

      2. syllepsis*

        So much sympathy!! My own 1:1 meetings with my manager, by the end of my time in the role, had degenerated to the point that I would try not to remind her they were coming up, in the hope that she’d forget. (In one of our very final meetings, she picked me up very solemnly for an issue that I later found out was way less substantial than she’d made it out to be, and also something she’d been asked by another coworker not to raise due to its lack of substance.) It’s genuinely kind of surreal now, not being met with condescension and belittling at every turn.

  17. Bee Eye Ill*

    I work in IT and we had our storage space taken away to give to another department. We manage several hundred computers and were in the middle of a major update, so for the past couple of years our office is stacked high with old and new machines, boxes and clutter everywhere, and has been a huge mess. We keep asking for bigger offices or some kind of facilities and all we got was an old shipping container to put old stuff in. The decision makers don’t care because they don’t see it everyday like we do. Anyway, tomorrow is my last day so it won’t be my problem any more.

  18. Project Manager*

    No issues at all. In fact, the HR rep I talked to was incredibly, almost to the point of patronizingly, excited to learn about new technologies to provide accommodations for hearing loss.

    I ended up not using said new technologies much (it turns out that words like “triboelectrification” don’t show up in a lot of voice recognition data banks, so real-time captioning for the sort of meetings I’m typically in was more of a nice idea than a reality), but at least it was generally a good experience with the HR person.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      That word… it did not mean what I expected it to mean.

      Learn something new every day! May all accommodation meetings end up this pleasant.

      1. Eponymous*

        I also learned this word today. I recommend going to the Wikipedia article about it to see their example photograph!

  19. D'Arcy*

    I’ve been back to work (higher ed. management position) for almost 2 months, after being on medical leave for 5 months while undergoing 6 rounds of chemo. My team was fantastic, and I was able to completely disconnect from work for those 5 months. A peer manager oversaw my team, and our director and grand-director were (and are) extremely supportive. It definitely caused issues – huge communication gaps caused by me going *smokecloud* and disappearing with not a whole lot of notice. Big projects almost went sideways, but my team stepped up and figured out what was needed. We’ll be working on communication as a team, and I’ll be able to manage my team, the rest of my role, and still handling ongoing maintenance treatment for the next 2 years.

    The leave itself was basically me talking with my director, emailing an HR contact, and hey presto – done. I had to have my oncologist send a letter to HR to outline how long I would be off for treatment, and what I would be restricted from doing when I returned. Then, about a month before returning (so, still during active chemo treatment), I worked with HR to set up a gradual return to work schedule. On my first day back, I met with my director and with HR to discuss the plan, and that was it. I was 3.5 hours per day for the first week. 5 course the second week, then back to full. I’ve been encouraged by my director to not try to do to much, to limit my work hours, and to take days off as needed. The work gets done, or can wait.

    1. Also with the chemo*

      That’s fantastic. I’m so glad to hear you had a good reentry. I’m out for 8 weeks now for chemo (after working through the first half of it) and I’m very, very worried about my return. All my projects were handed off. What will I even do when I come back? I’m concerned I’ll be phased out and then where will I be? I need my health insurance, I have cancer…

      1. D'Arcy*

        I’m thankful to live in a country that has a health care system, so I didn’t have to worry about the financial side of things. I can’t even imagine how much more stress that must add! The transition back to work after the 5 months off was weird though – endless series of “you look great!” (how bad did I look before I got treatment? pretty bad, I guess…). I’m also fortunate to have such an amazing team and colleagues to help cover and transition me back. That makes a HUGE difference.

  20. AnotherSarah*

    I just got some accommodations at my desk–had an ergo analysis by someone at my org, and some stuff like a wrist riser and document holder. My boss was good about everything but the department admin is very…budget-conscious. Unfortunately, all accommodations expenses come out of dept budgets, so getting me stuff means less money for everything else. I didn’t get real pushback but I also felt like I couldn’t ask for everything I think I’m entitled to.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Wrist risers and doc holders are standard office equipment. Even feet supports are becoming standard. It doesn’t hurt to *ask*, and small office equipment (under $100) should be a no-brainer, even if there’s multiple pieces of it.

    2. JustaTech*

      From what I’ve seen, having accommodation expenses come out of department budgets is the top reason for not getting accommodations that cost money. When I started with my company, all the ergonomic accommodations came out of the EHS budget (sensible). Then, it was claimed that too many people were abusing the ergo eval system to get nicer chairs (our chairs were plenty nice, I’ve had mine for almost 9 years and it’s still great), so all ergo accommodations started going on department budgets (and we were without an EHS officer for several years), so no one got anything.
      So people brought stuff from home or cobbled together standing desks from reams of printer paper. Which sort of worked, but meant that you had to try and guess what kind of ergo stuff you needed.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        This makes sense to me…and in response to WellRed, I think “need” is also a little subjective–I have a wrist issue so I do think I need the wrist rests, but a standing desk is probably going to be more of a “best to have” rather than a need for most folks. Anyhow I’m not about to become the one known for being greedy. There’s the ideal and then there’s the real.

  21. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    I have an employee that is habitually late, 12x per month and at least 20 minutes. I had a discussion and gave her a verbal warning, asked her to be vigilant over the next pay period to get here on time. She said that she thinks she has medical issues that cause her to oversleep, but she hasn’t been to the physician yet. In that two week period, she was late 10 minutes or more 6x.

    So then I put her on a PIP. I explained how her actions were affecting her peers, our clients, and herself. I laid out clearly what I expected from her, what resources we could provide, and suggestions on how to remedy the situation. I gave her 2 months. Within the first 3 weeks she was 30 minutes late with no call 2x. She came to me balling that she was afraid she would be fired, that she has no support system here (young girl, about 25), and she can’t afford her copay for her physician visit. I encouraged her to reach out to the closet family (3 hours) for support, and gave her resources for assisting with copays/coinsurance for office visits. Then on a back-to-back event, she was 2 hours late with not call, and 35 minutes late with no call.

    My HR firm says we may need to provide accommodations because she’s mentioned health issues, but she won’t go to the MD to find out what accommodations could be appropriate. I’m not even sure what would make sense.

    I would love to help this girl, but I feel like I would be dragging her along a path she probably doesn’t want, just to keep her employed.

    1. ElizabethJane*

      Is adjusting her start time an option? I ask since my job is flexible, but I’ve also worked jobs (call centers come to mind) where starting 30 minutes late wouldn’t work.

      I mean, I agree that if you can accommodate you should but I don’t think “ignoring scheduled start times” is an accommodation.

      1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

        Her duties are to answer the phones, which are covered by client facing staff when she’s late. We’ve already adjusted her start time a half hour later, and she now barely squeaks by with 7.5 hours per day. Having her any later would burden the other staff and further drive the need for a replacement.

        I’ve thought about having her in a different position, but all of the other positions are client facing and thus absolutely must have a fixed schedule.

        1. Luna*

          I think you are handling this correctly. You gave her a verbal warning, then put her on PIP and told her what to improve, and even pointed out what she’ll need to do, so you CAN help her. If she continues to refuse to do her part of ‘the job’ (ie. going to a doctor and seeing what could be the issue with her chronic oversleeping), I think you would be well-justified to let her go.
          Willingness to accomodate an employee is great, but the employee needs to be willing to do their part. And as long as there’s documented, written proof that you have tried and she refuses… *shrug* Legally, it should be okay.

      2. doreen*

        If someone is often 10 or 15 minutes late , adjusting the start time can help because a consistent few minutes late can be the result of something time limited – maybe the daycare center doesn’t open until 8, and that makes the employee 10 minutes late , or her she’s late because people dropping kids at school block her driveway and sometimes she has to wait for them to get back. But if someone is late at least 20 minutes 12x per month , sometimes up to 2 hours and doesn’t call, that’s not going to be solved with adjusting her schedule to start 30 minutes later.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, since this is a butt-in-seat job, it may not be possible to accommodate with scheduling changes. Unfortunately, there are a lot of jobs where scheduling flexibility isn’t a reasonable accommodation.

      3. Muriel Heslop*

        The no-call bothers me. I had an aide a few years ago with spotty attendance and the attendance and lateness could be accommodated if we knew about them, but she wouldn’t call. “I’m already running late so I don’t want to take the time to call.” We never got to the root of the issue (though we had our suspicions – we DO diagnose people for a living) and I had to let her go. If she had come to me with a medical issue I would have tried to accommodate her but it’s really hard when they have to physically be at work during specific times.

      4. HRArwy*

        I would walk her through the accommodation process and give her a deadline for providing the appropriate documentation. Saying you have a medical condition and providing documentation that allows you to substantiate and accommodate are two different things.

        If she doesn’t provide documentation by the deadline then proceed with termination.

    2. MML*

      I understand why 2 hours plus is an issue, but I have to wonder is 10 -15 minutes of tardiness here and there really that big of a deal?

      I say that as a genuine question – does she need to answer the phones right at 9am (or whenever you start), or does she have some other responsibility that needs to be done right in the morning? If that’s the case, then I understand, but if not (and if she is a satisfactory employee otherwise), it might not be worth your effort pursuing.

      In industries or roles where timing isn’t crucial (like for salaried, non-customer facing employees), I generally don’t see a benefit of being overly rigid when it comes to what exact time employees arrive. After all, you wouldn’t see it as an issue if they were habitually staying 10-15 minutes late everyday. Some people have other things in their lives that make mornings particularly hectic, or may just not be morning people. Leniency (where it can be provided) typically makes employees less stressed and feel more in control of their day, making them more happy with their jobs.

      Again, I don’t know the full story of your situation, but its possible that by providing a bit of flexibility, you could potentially save yourself a lot of hassle (assuming the employee doesn’t take advantage of it).

      I’d love to know what other readers think!

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        It sounds like there are clients in the mix, so if she’s late to client meetings, or if they schedule a team meeting at the start of the day, that could be a real issue. That may mean making her start time even earlier, as a cushion, or avoiding all client meetings until at least an hour after her scheduled start time, but only she and probably a mental health provider could really say what accommodations may work for her. Her getting outside help (more than family) is pretty essential here. If you have an EAP, it may be even more than the copays – scheduling can be daunting if you’re in a certain state of mind, so if they can direct her to physicians who are on your insurance and close to work, that could help.

      2. WellRed*

        Someone needs to answer the phones and it’s her job. If I have clients, and I need to cover for Miss Can’t get to work on time or EVEN CALL, I’m looking for a new job.

      3. Luna*

        This idea of being okay with flexibility on her starting time baffles me a little bit… I was brought up with the idea that it’s rude to be late to an appointment, and the same goes for a job. Now, if an external issue arises on the rare occasion (traffic; car won’t start; missed the bus because it drove off too early; sickness that made it difficult to get there on time; even a simple case of oversleeping or sleeping through the alarm), it’s okay because it’s rare. It can happen.

        Requiring an accomodation because of certain things, like the daycare not opening until 8 AM, and getting permission from the boss, preferably even in writing (?), that you can start a bit later because of that circumstance, I’m okay with that, too.

        But to just non-chalantly decide to just wander in 10-15 minutes late all the time because of no reason? I would consider that very rude, not just to the job and the supervisors, but also to fellow peers, and pretty unprofessional.
        Maybe it’s because I have worked mostly shift-based jobs, but when your shift starts at a certain time, you’d better be there when your shift starts. By being late, you can end up with making things move slower than they should, and you are cutting into the leisure time of the coworker you are taking over for.

        I had a coworker when I worked nightshift in the hotel, and she had classes at 9 AM, when the nightshift ended at 7 AM. And some early shift employees just seemed incapable of or even bluntly refusing to show up on time, with some being so bad that they didn’t appear until an hour after her shift officially ended. But she had to stay because you cannot leave the 24-hour-open reception desk unstaffed. It really annoyed her because it was rude, unprofessional, and messed up her schedule of getting home and getting ready for classes.
        But she kept quiet because she was still on employee probation.
        But the day her probation ended…! Ho boy, she told pretty much everyone on staff that her shift ended AT 7AM, and if early shift employees were not there to take over AT 7AM, she was gonna GO HOME. And early shift made sure to be there on time.

        1. Allypopx*

          Your experiences sound really frustrating! But it’s not always “for no reason”. Anax went into good detail below, so I won’t rehash, but there are plenty of reasons this could be a real problem someone needs an accommodation for, even if they were ‘brought up’ with the same values. And they may not even know the root cause of it. It can be just as frustrating to be the employee always running late as it is to be the coworker, and sometimes the nonchalance is not genuine.

    3. fposte*

      Can’t you check out accommodations on your own and suggest them, though? They don’t need to come from a doctor. Have a look at askjan dot org, which has great lists, to see if possibilities in there work for her.

      It may be that her position isn’t one that can offer useful accommodations, which is sad but reasonable; however, if you know she might benefit from accommodations and there are some your workplace could provide, why not just offer her some without requiring her to jump through hoops?

      1. Observer*

        Except that she doesn’t seem to be providing much more than “I tend to oversleep”, which is not really enough for a manager to work with.

        Also, that doesn’t explain the no calls.

        1. fposte*

          While I think in this particular situation it sounds like reasonable accommodation isn’t possible due to the constraints of the position, I think she *is* providing more than that and it’s plenty for a manager to work with. She has a medical condition that she may or may not have identified that results in disordered sleep. You don’t have to know if it’s narcolepsy, medication-related insomnia, or something else to consider possibilities: if it’s a job where a flexible schedule is possible (sounds like it’s not here, but plenty are), start by offering that, making it clear that 8 hours are expected and you’ll need x time of overlap with the manager, but start time can vary.

          I think if you look at many posts here you’ll see a lot of situations where employers bought a ton of goodwill by not making people jump through hoops but by saying “Sure, it’s no big thing for us to do X for you; here you go.” It sounds in this situation like it would be a big thing, but having an official diagnosis wouldn’t change that.

          1. Observer*

            Not making someone jump through hoops is one thing. Asking for a reasonable amount of information is another. The issue here is not the lack of a formal diagnosis. The issue is that the OP simply does not have the information they need to help this young woman, and she doesn’t seem to be able to figure it out, either. So going the doctor is not about formal hoops, but about figuring out what has a chance of being useful.

            In another thread here, people keep talking about how it’s a good idea to come to your employer / manager with specific suggestions. Not because it’s required, but because it makes it easier to accomplish what you need.

            Right now the only thing that OP knows of that could be helpful to the employee is redefining the role, which is not reasonable or realistic. They don’t have enough information to propose anything else. Which means that it’s on the employee to make some suggestions, which the OP should do their best to evaluate without placing undue hoops.

            1. fposte*

              It absolutely is a good idea to come to your manager with specific suggestions. What I’m arguing is that it can be a good and not particularly difficult thing for the manager *also* to come with specific suggestions if an employee doesn’t offer them. Will it always help? No. Will it solve this specific situation? I suspect not. But people all over this commenting thread are mentioning times when it has.

              Basically, this is one of those depends-who’s-writing-in things; if it’s the employee, I recommend specific suggestions, but if it’s the manager, I also recommend offering any standard and easy accommodations (like flexible schedules and ergonomic furniture) that your workplace can provide without waiting for a specific diagnosis or suggestion from your employee.

      2. Ben Marcus Consulting*

        I think it would be inappropriate for me to lead an employee to accommodations without any real information provided to do so, essentially the same as saying we’ll no longer be holding you accountable for your schedule.

        However, I have encouraged her repeatedly to seek medical advice so we can come to a solution.

        1. Observer*

          I’d suggest that you stop pushing her to the doctor, and instead tell her that you want to see if there is anything you can do to help her. HOWEVER, given the position you CANNOT offer her more schedule flexibility than you’ve already given her (the 1/2 adjustment to her schedule) and she needs to come back to you with some reasonable and realistic suggestions about how to deal with the other problems.

          You don’t really need a doctor’s note. You DO need information. So, be direct and tell her “I can’t do anything more for you unless you give me the information I need.”

          Document this and all of your other conversations with her.

          1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

            I only need documentation from a qualified physician if she’s wanting to pursue accommodations for medical concerns. That was her original reasoning for her tardiness.

            Other than that, I’ve helped her map out a routine so that she could visualize where things may be causing her to be late that are better within her control, like taking an earlier bus. I’ve provided information on EAP, commuter benefits, and discount programs so that she can better afford public transit (sometimes she walks).

            I have absolutely been direct with her, and I’ve let her know that I can’t be so involved with her attendance like this. That I need her to be able to manager her own schedule more effectively.

            1. Observer*

              In that case, I think you’ve done everything you can. At this point, I’d start documenting everything. That protects you and should make it easier for HR to approve whatever you decide on.

              Put her back on a PIP and when she says she thinks she has a medical or other problem, tell her that at this point you’ve done everything you can. If she thinks that there is something else that could help it is totally up to her to come up with some suggestions – but they can’t be that you become her parent replacement who gets her up in time for work. Keep repeating that, like a broken record (and keep documenting.)

              It stinks. But I don’t see any way for you to change this.

        2. fposte*

          I would agree mostly because I don’t think you really *have* accommodations to offer here. Even if she does get medical certification, you’re not going to be able to change her schedule, so I understand her reluctance to spend time and money on something that won’t help her when her job is already swirling the drain.

          But there are lots of situations where it’s perfectly appropriate to lead an employee to accommodations without any real information. “I have a thing where my leg hurts sometimes”–“Would getting you a footrest help?” A lot of accommodations are really basic workflow stuff that it’s not hard to provide.

    4. Anon HR person*

      I would recommend starting the ADA process which often includes paperwork for a doctor to complete with a deadline. If the deadline is missed, or the paperwork doesn’t support, this will then give you more options with reduced risk since you may deny the accommodation.

    5. WellRed*

      Frankly, I think this employee is BSing you. Why? Because she no calls and no shows. She should be worried about her job and doing everything she can to keep it, including the doc appointment, and keep you in the loop. If nothing else, please consider how blatantly unfair you are being to your other employees who do do their jobs.

      You can’t accommodate someone who doesn’t ask for accommodations (and stick to them).

      1. Anax*

        I’ve definitely known folks with severe depression who act JUST like this, so I’m inclined to think the employee is serious. I’ve definitely spent eight hours literally staring at a wall, trying to force myself to get off the couch and make a sandwich – and no matter how serious the situation or how much I harangue myself, I just can’t do it.

        She *might* just be lazy or trying to coast, but executive function impairment and sleep disorders are a very real thing, and this is a plausible manifestation.

        1. Allypopx*

          I have all the empathy in the world for that. I’ve been there. Unmedicated I can barely care for myself and holding down a job can be really hard. But, ADA accommodations need to be reasonable, and “show up when you can if you’re having a bad brain day” just doesn’t work in this kind of job. Some jobs it would! But unfortunately I don’t think the employee can be salvaged in this job and this scenario, no whether her issues are real or not.

          1. fposte*

            It’s a sucky truth of life that there’s a correlation between job schedule flexibility and seniority, but that if flexibility would be one of your accommodations and you can’t get it, you may never get seniority.

          2. Anax*

            Yep, absolutely agreed. This is a schedule-sensitive position, and unless she can come in on time every day, this job won’t work for her. Which is a bummer, but may be for the best for everyone.

            (And man, antidepressants are SO great. I never had much trouble getting to work, but unmedicated, I sleep for 12-14 hours per day, 6 months per year, which is just… awful, especially when also holding down a full-time job!)

            1. the_scientist*

              And conversely, when I started on anti-depressants for anxiety the dose was too strong and I nearly fell asleep at my desk a few times before I got on a more manageable dosage….thank goodness I took public transit to work, rather than driving!

              1. Anax*

                Oh jeez, yeah, the dosage problems are real! I was “high” at work one day when I had too much caffeine with a new antidepressant – fidgeting and giggling – and it was the most mortifying experience. My boss was understanding, but ack, dreadful.

        2. the_scientist*

          As a grad student/TA, I had a student basically just ghost on my class (and in fact, the program in general) so I totally agree with you that she is likely not malingering. As a manager, though, I do also appreciate how frustrating it can be when you feel like you’re doing as much as you can to help an employee and they aren’t taking the life preserver you’re throwing at them. I think the JAN guide posted at the top of this thread is a fantastic resource — if you can propose accommodations, that can be helpful because it takes the burden of having to propose something and the anxiety of knowing whether or not it’s “reasonable” off the employee.

          1. Anax*

            I actually did that in college – so on behalf of the problematically-brained student body, thank you for not taking it personally. It was so, so stressful when people accused me of malingering, and it just made it harder to get to class.

            (I’m much better now, but I was dealing with severe PTSD, associated agoraphobia, and depression, and I really couldn’t leave my room half the time. I graduated, but… barely; I think I missed 2/3 of my classes.)

        3. Observer*

          That’s true. She might have a genuine problem that’s causing this. But the employer can’t really act on this.Which means that this is good to think about in terms of trying to have empathy. But in terms of practical actions the OP could take, this is really not actionable.

        4. Luna*

          I can agree that this can come across like a sign of depression, and having had times like that myself. Especially when unmedicated because I didn’t notice or was flat-out in denial that I was suffering from depression (again).

          But there is only so far that can be taken, until even I – if I were the person suffering from depression – would end up losing my patience and decide that enough is enough. Depression is a problem, and if it needs medication to make the person suceed in remaining remotely functioning, it is still on that person to get it treated.

          If you refuse to do anything about your issues, you canno expect others to keep doing it for you.

      2. fposte*

        I think this person may not be able to be accommodated in this position, but 1) there are definitely disabilities that could lead to this pattern and 2) you absolutely can accommodate someone who doesn’t ask for accommodations and in some cases would be legally obligated to.

    6. Anax*

      That’s a LOT of late days! It sounds like you’re handling things pretty reasonably here; I’m not sure what else you could do short of dragging her to a doctor’s appointment – and while that might be reasonable for family, it would definitely be an overstep for a boss. If you have an EAP system, that would likely be a good resource. It’s also possible that a later start-time or rest/nap breaks during the day might help, depending on what health problem she’s experiencing, and on the needs of your workplace.

      It sounds like your employee might be having problems with executive function – she keeps meaning to do things, TRYING to do things, and then… they don’t happen. Even simple tasks like getting out of bed and driving to work are so overwhelming that she freezes, and she ends up being late.

      (There’s a lot of things that can cause this – anxiety and depression are probably the most common, but it’s basically “your brain is out of gas, so when you turn the key, you get some rumbling and a lot of effort, but no forward momentum.”)

      There’s certainly other possible problems (narcolepsy, chronic fatigue, sleep apnea, and so on), but executive function impairment can be a weird concept for folks who haven’t experienced it, so I wanted to flag that. It’s very possible that she really is trying her hardest, and her failure to act is a symptom and not a sign of carelessness.

      If it does seem like she has good intentions and is aware of the problems she’s causing, rather than being blithely laissez faire… This constant tardiness may well be an undue hardship in your workplace, and you may need to let her go, but it would be kind to recognize that she’s trying her best and taking the situation seriously.

      I’ve been in similar situations before, and I know how darn frustrating they are; I hope things work out.

      1. Anax*

        To clarify – not that you shouldn’t let her go for this. You may well need to! But if it seems like she’s already aware of the consequences of her actions and kicking herself, trying to make her *care* more probably won’t help. It may be that she does care, she just isn’t capable of succeeding right now – which would suck, but is sometimes how these things go.

    7. That'll happen*

      That’s a tough one. It sounds like she’s in a position where arriving at a specific start time is required. Are there any positions with more flexible scheduling that she could be moved to? Otherwise, I think this falls under the category of not a reasonable accommodation. If the job requires her to be on time at a specific start time and she can’t do it, it’s not the job for her and you’re really not required to accommodate her inability to be on time.

    8. Lifelong student*

      I cannot see how “health issues” without any medical evaluation can generate a need to provide accommodations! Chronic lateness is not a medical condition unless I am totally mistaken. In addition, accommodations required under ADA must be reasonable for the employer and allow the employee to do the job. If the employee is not present- how is the employee doing the job?

      1. Anax*

        Chronic lateness can be a symptom of a number of protected medical conditions; it depends on the issue.

        Some possible accommodations, which probably wouldn’t work for this particular job, but might work in other situations –
        – She might be able to work whenever she does wake up, so long as she completes 40 hours per week – this is fairly common for freelancers, of course! It might also be useful for, say, someone with non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder – a disorder which affects a lot of blind folks, where they may sleep and wake at different times every day.
        – She might work a split shift – for instance, I had a coworker who would work on-site in the mornings (7-12), then remote in after his kids went to bed (9pm-12am).
        – If her sleep problems are seasonal, like seasonal affective disorder, shifting her schedule later during the winter might help.
        – She might be allowed to take a nap during lunchtime, or during regular breaks, perhaps making a room available to her or ensuring that she won’t be interrupted during that time. This is recommended for disorders like narcolepsy.
        – She might be given a standing desk or yoga ball, because physical activity can help with energy levels and restful sleep.
        – She might need to completely unplug from work in the evenings, to ensure she gets restful sleep and time to relax, which might be a formal accommodation in workplaces where she would otherwise be expected to be on call.
        – She might have a service dog to wake her up in the mornings and nudge her out the door, and might also benefit from having that dog in the workplace.

        Lots of possible accommodations, depending on what’s going on!

        1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

          She seems to be mostly ok once she’s in the office. I have offered various accommodations to help with energy levels at work, so far she’s declined.

          I can’t offer a come and go schedule, her work is based on answering phone calls, which start as soon as our phones roll back to live and don’t stop until we roll to an answering service. 3 client facing employees are consistently answering calls in between clients to keep her from being overwhelmed.

          The office has a set operating hours of 8-5 for clients, having her work outside of that isn’t possible without also staffing more expensive personnel to be here with her.

          Her works ends as soon as she locks her PC for the day and she has no work interruptions once she’s left.

          It’s just getting her in that’s the problem. I’ve offered to help you set up an alarm on her phone. I’ve offered to buy an alarm. I encouraged her to set a daily routine, so that her body would start to wake her up consistently. I even suggested she put alarms throughout her house so that she’d have to get up and turn them off.

          Now that I’m writing this, I’m wondering if she’s ended up homeless. She’s mentioned that her unit has been purchased by someone that wants to occupy and not rent (we’re in SF). That could explain a lot of her difficulties, and her reluctance to seek care.

          1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

            Not homeless, but she did say that the stress of not knowing what’s going on with her home is causing her severe anxiety. I recommended a few low-cost options that could be open to her, to at least provide some stability, and reminded her about our EAP.

            1. Anax*

              Yeah, to be clear – I think you’re doing everything you can, and it’s really awesome. I was just giving some hypotheticals for other sorts of jobs.

              If this were a friend of mine, I would be heavily encouraging them to get medication. She KNOWS she has anxiety, it’s a relatively short-term situation, and she absolutely has to have change in the very near future. This is what meds are for, getting you over the hump so you can start taking care of yourself and clawing out of the hole!

              As her boss, I think you need to be more cautious because you DO have power over her, and it would be really awful if she felt like medication was required for her to keep her job (since it carries some risks, and you can’t guarantee she would improve enough to keep on even with medication). But… psychiatry sounds like the best hail-mary possible in this situation, since it sounds like anxiety is a big part of the problem.

              This is going to be REALLY specific, but since you’re in the Bay… I would quite recommend Community Psychiatry; I know a number of folks (including myself) who’ve had good luck with them, they accept most insurance, and most providers will do telemedicine (e.g., video call for appointments).

    9. Observer*

      Your HR may be correct or they may be over-cautious. But on thing your employee is TOTALLY not protected for is the no call stuff. So, ask HR how to start the ADA process. But also start really bearing down on the no-call stuff, and document your head off. Of course, you don’t just want to document the n0-calls, but also the impact of her lateness, because you want to be clear on what “reasonable accommodation” and “essential duties” are.

    10. Aspie AF*

      “Okay, let’s talk accommodations — what did you ask for, how did you ask for it, what was the process like for you, and what was the outcome?”

      Alison was not asking for stories about employer difficulty with employee accommodations.

      1. Luna*

        Why not give the view of the other side of the coin? Besides, people frequently ask questions in the comments, anyway, so why not take the opportunity to ask? Or even just vent. Happens here, too.

      2. Allypopx*

        And people are making good suggestions based on their experiences and highlighting the importance of asking for accommodations because, as this demonstrates, the employer may not know how to help. This is a relevant comment. Please don’t police how people contribute, particularly when it’s on topic.

        1. Aspie AF*

          This specific post comes off as problematic to me as I’ve been that employee, trying to explain issues that come off as being difficult or lazy but stem from conditions that I don’t even know how to start getting professional help for. It took me six years from the point where I thought I might be autistic to getting a formal diagnosis, and I’m quite lucky to have it at all. A GP is often just the first step in a lengthy process for someone with mental or neurological issues and she’s already stated that she can’t afford that expense…

          I’m fine with posts like Lana Kane’s below, but this one honestly comes off as victim-blaming.

          1. Allypopx*

            I do get that, I went through that same process trying to get a formal ADHD diagnosis as an adult. And I apologize for bristling. But I don’t read this post as victim blaming. I read it more as someone who is out of their depth and doesn’t know/understand what to do, and I think the discussion ultimately has the potential to be really helpful for the woman in question who doesn’t know what she needs to ask for. I’d rather the question be asked in this context where people are already primed with answers on the topic than not get asked and the situation subsequently be handled poorly.

            1. Aspie AF*

              Thank you. I agree that the post comes off as someone out of their depth and doesn’t understand what to do, but I don’t see any intent to try and rectify that lack of understanding. Anyway, let’s leave this on our agreement to want said woman to get help.

          2. Ben Marcus Consulting*

            I think your history is causing a bias, that and text based communications are notoriously hard to read into. I’m not at all victim blaming, I could never. I’m laying out what has happened, and what’s likely to continue to happen based on how she’s responding.

            I’m her corporate leader, not her father confessor, her physician, her parent, her spouse, or anyone one of dozens of other people that would have a better standing to help her with medical concerns, including mental care. If she’s sick I want to help, but I need her to go to her care provider to get the ball rolling, I can’t do it for her. It would be wildly inappropriate for me to speculate on what’s going on with her. From her perceptive she might start to think that she’s being unfairly judged for conditions that I’m “diagnosing” her with, from my boards perspective I would be setting up my organization to be at least partially responsible for managing her care.

            I’ve handled similar situations in the past with the caveat that those employees immediately started to seek some type of care to figure out what was going on. I took one employee from nearly fired when I started as her supervisor to star employee within two years. She likewise had severe physical and mental health issues that had been limiting her performance. I drove her home for a week straight because her meds imbalance caused her to pass out in the middle of the street.

            The only thing I’m out of my depth here is how to get this specific employee to take more of an interest in herself. I get the feeling that she’s afraid of what she may find out when she gets to the physician. Whether that means there could be something very serious, or that she doesn’t think anything will be found, I don’t know.

            I do know that I can’t accommodate her by taking away accountability.

            1. Observer*

              As I said upthread, you may need to take a different approach. I think you need to be very clear about what it is you actually need from her. You don’t need her to see the doctor, you need information from her. Where that information comes from and how she gets it is not your problem.

              Now, normally I would say that your approach is really good – getting to your doctor is typically the right place to start if you think you have a medical condition. But since that seems to be an issue for her on the one hand, and you issue is not really her medical care but knowing what, if anything, you can do for her, present it that way. Perhaps if you are not pushing it she’ll be less focused on all the reasons she needs to give you for not going to the doctor and actually decide to do it. On the other hand it might encourage her to come back with other information that would actually be more relevant. eg If she’s homeless, she doesn’t need a doctor, she needs a referral to whatever resources there are for homeless people.

            2. Aspie AF*

              “If she’s sick I want to help”

              What would be your alternative to her not being “sick”? This still comes off as victim blaming, and the congnitive dissonance of “I would never” doesn’t help.

    11. Fleahhhh*

      I’ve had a similar situation, where I am consistently 5-15 minutes late, 2-3 times per week; never more than 20 minutes and I always work the full 8 hours. I have a chronic GI condition that means I’m often in the bathroom (particularly in the mornings) and cannot always leave when I plan to.

      I asked for accommodations after being written up and was recently fired for tardiness, despite my Dr submitting the requested form. So it’s not always a good outcome.

      1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

        I feel ya. My entire family is aware that I am not up for any traveling or outings away from a restroom from the time I wake at 5am until about noon. I never know what my GI issues are going to be like on any given day.

  22. Sleepytime Tea*

    My employer used a 3rd party company to manage accommodation requests/FMLA/etc., and in my opinion that’s preferable because it created some separation between my medical information and my supervisors. I didn’t want them to know the details of my condition (or even what it was) and our company policy was that the 3rd party we worked with handled everything and then forwarded what the approved accommodations were to your boss, and they had to follow them, period. That’s all they got to know.

    That said, the process was pretty straight forward.
    -I notified them that I wanted ADA accommodations and intermittent FMLA (which included time off for doc appointments as well as pre-approved time off a specified number of days/instances to deal with flare-ups).
    -They sent me paperwork to take to my doctor. My doc and I discussed the amount of time I might need off, and what accommodations made sense for me at work. They filled out the paperwork and signed off on it.
    -I turned in the paperwork. I was allowed to start taking FMLA immediately even though it wasn’t officially approved yet, with the understanding that it could be retroactively not approved.
    -The FMLA/ADA administrator determined what I was approved for and notified me, my HR rep, and my supervisor. My supervisor was told how much/when I could take time off, and a time was set up to discuss how to implement the accommodations I was approved for.
    -Met with my HR rep and supervisor to hammer out the details of the ADA accommodations. (For me it included working from home 2 days a week, so what days, how we would handle important meetings that feel on certain days, etc.) We also discussed things like how I should record FMLA time (I was salaried but we tracked hours for projects and things).

    For me, the 3rd party administrator made the process very professional and smooth. I liked that very much. Ultimately, my supervisor and my director above him were… not enthused about me having accommodations, and less enthused when I called them out on violating what was approved by the company and attempting to penalize me for using the approved accommodations and FMLA. They were particularly peeved when I also called them out on trying to implement an (unrelated) illegal PTO policy for our team and got HR involved. (It was a hill I was willing to die on, I knew what I was doing there.)

    So I ended up finding another job. I was very happy that I had ADA accommodations and intermittent FMLA though, because I was more protected and they couldn’t just try and randomly force me out like they did a few other people on the team. (Management change can be brutal.) My supervisor would make it difficult for me to use my accommodations, and there was one thing in particular that as soon as we met after the HR rep was gone he straight said he just wasn’t going to do it. It wasn’t the most important thing to me so I let it go, but it cemented my decision to leave.

    I do not believe this would be the norm. If you have a good manager, these types of things shouldn’t be an issue. I had great managers prior to this particular supervisor-director duo, and they actually basically gave me all the accommodations that I had requested without me having to go through the process at all, just because they understood I had a health issue and I asked. It wasn’t until I got new managers that they were unwilling to be even the tiniest bit flexible or understanding that I got official accommodations, and that seemed to piss them off.

  23. MaureenSmith*

    Have some specifics when you go into the meeting. What aids, tools, schedule changes, etc you are asking for. If you can, provide product links and pricing. A lot of the time the HR/manager/boss you will be dealing with don’t know about what YOU need. The more specific the ask, especially with an estimated cost, the more likely a positive outcome. Be matter of fact, professional, and willing to negotiate.

    A few years ago I had severe back pain from a herniated disk. A colleague suggested a desktop adapter to convert my desk between standing and sitting. I provided the link & pricing, it was ordered and helped a lot to alleviate my pain.

    1. BethDH*

      From my limited experience with this, seconding the being-specific part. Also showing that you’ve thought about how parts of your requested accommodations would work together if there are multiple things you need — that is, present a plan, not just a list. Help them imagine how these accommodations look in your workplace (eg., if you need to work from home x days a week, say which days already tend to have few meetings or how you plan to participate remotely so the impact on others’ schedules is clear)

  24. Folklorist*

    I recently had a problem in this same vein that I’d like to get peoples’ experience on. I had a job application recently where the recruiter reached out to me (I wasn’t looking for a job) and I got excited about the opportunity. She seemed to think that I was a shoo-in for the position and was wanting to fast-track me through the process. She had me fill out a formal application, and at the end, it asked me to check a “yes” or “no” box: “Are you disabled or have you ever experienced a disability, including [list of disabilities including “major depression]”. I’ve experienced major depression in the past, but it’s pretty well managed with meds and therapy right now and has been for a couple of years. After a lot of deliberation, I checked “yes” because there might be some time in the future where my meds stop working or I need to change them or can’t get them because of insurance snafus, etc.

    I never heard from the employer again. Logically, I think that I probably just wasn’t as qualified as the recruiter thought I might be, or that there was a better qualified candidate. But I wondered if checking that box had anything to do with it (even if it legally shouldn’t). I think I’ve decided not to check that box again if it’s presented in the future, but what would other people have done in my position? Is it better not to cop to it if you don’t see immediate need for accommodations? I’m not gonna lie, part of me was thinking that they might want to have the metrics saying that they “employ people with disabilities,” so it might actually have helped my application. All in all, everything about that box-check felt kind of gross to me, even though I’m probably vastly overthinking it.

      1. Cranky Neighbot*

        Same. I saw that question on applications all the time, but I’m not disclosing anything there.

        1. Quill*

          Especially with third party “applicant screening” for jobs that is, like most perspon-sorting algorithms, a black box of schroedinger’s descrimination.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        It’s not illegal to ask any question (race / gender / religion / disability), it is illegal to base a decision on it unless the characteristic is specifically tied to the job duties (think surrogate mother, carrying fetus to term – it’s fair to not hire a cis man for that…).

        Most people don’t ask in order to avoid the chance that it looks like they are using the information in their hiring decisions.

        1. fposte*

          Disability is the big exception–it *is* illegal to ask. As it says on the Big Page of Guidance, “The ADA prohibits employers from asking questions that are likely to reveal the existence of a disability before making a job offer.”

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          This can vary from state to state. I know that in Massachusetts, for example, it IS illegal to even ask about a person’s religion pre-employment. It’s also illegal to ask if they have a disability. You can ask if they can perform the essential functions of the job (e.g., “Can you lift fifty pounds?” “Can you sit in a chair for eight hours?”), but you can’t ask about disabilities.

          1. fposte*

            Just to be clear, a state can always make *stronger* anti-discrimination laws, but there’s no legal way for the state to undercut the federal laws.

          2. ShortT*

            I’m in MA. I have a very ethnically Greek name. Because I noted on my resume that I read Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic, the interviewer asked me if I were Jewish. I was taken aback.

            This was almost ten years ago. I’m not sure about the legality of it back then.

    1. theletter*

      From my experience with recruiters, they always think their candidates are shoo-ins. They are sales people, they have to believe that the fit is great in order to sell it. I sometimes think the recruiter is just sitting there thinking, “well my candidate breathes air, and the employer breathes air, they’re perfect for each other!”

      the other challenge is when you’re being presented through a recruiter, the recruiter takes a fee, so the candidates end up being more expensive for the employer. This can play a factor in whether you get a callback.

      The other things I’ve noticed is that jobs that come through outside recruiters tend to be hard to fill, probably because they are not that great.

      This is all to say that it may have had very little to do with checkboxes, and you may have dodged a bullet in the long run.

    2. TypityTypeType*

      Wow. I thought it was illegal to ask about health or disabilities until there’s an actual job offer being made. (I may well be wrong; I often am, alas).

      But it’s certainly a terrible look for the company and/or the recruiter — it looks like they are trying to rule out people with disabilities, even if that’s not their intent. And of course it will leave people wondering about it.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        It’s not illegal to ask, it’s illegal to discriminate based on the answer, which is why most companies wouldn’t ask – it opens up the possibility that they discriminated based on the answer.

    3. PhillyRedhead*

      Am the only one who’s seen this question often? Usually along with other demographic-related questions (do you have Latino heritage, are you a veteran, etc.). The questions are asked after the application has been submitted, sometimes even as a link in the application confirmation email. There’s always an option to answer “Prefer not to answer.”

      1. Elenna*

        Yeah, I see this question all the time (always optional), usually with a note that it’s for statistical information or anti-discriminatory policies, and along with questions about race/gender. (I usually fill it out, on the basis that if a company discriminates against me because of those things, I don’t want to work for them anyways.)

        I live in Canada, if that makes a difference.

        1. londonedit*

          This is the same in the UK. Many job applications will have a separate sheet that’s clearly marked as for HR use only and which clearly states that it’s just to collect data for anti-discrimination policies or statistics about who’s applying. It asks for your ethnicity/religion (if any)/disabilities etc. It’s optional and cannot be used to influence your application either way.

      2. Anax*

        Yes, I’m in California and see it constantly. It seems to be a legally-required demographic form, to ensure that applications aren’t being biased, and that applicants know who to call if they need accommodations in the application process itself.

      3. Anonymeece*

        I’m in Texas and I too see this question all the time, right with race/veteran status/etc.

        I usually choose “Prefer not to answer”, but even then, I’m worried that automatically flags it as “yes”.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      I thought that was a standard question on the governmental portion of the application that screens for discrimination by the employer. They also ask about race and veteran status. I understood that those answers are not supposed to be shared with the company, they are kept for governmental reporting only.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, if it’s separate from those involved from hiring that’s a different matter. I thought Folklorist was talking about information that would be included with her application materials for the hiring manager.

        1. Liz*

          The thing is, it’s not really clear. I doubt it’s going to the hiring manager but it’s still *somewhere* in HR.

    5. Tau*

      I do not check boxes like that. This is even though one of my disabilities (speech disorder) becomes very obvious at phone interview stage. To me, it’s still not worth the risk of being filtered out earlier on in the process.

      1. Tau*

        Addendum: the only exception I’ll make is if there’s information saying that this information is collected for statistical purposes, is anonymous, and will not be attached to your application. In that case I’ll think about it.

    6. CommanderBanana*

      I would not check that box, and I have and am pretty open about it, but I still wouldn’t check that box, and I think them asking about specific disabilities without it directly relating to job duties (i.e., needing to lift heavy objects) is very shady.

      1. Skeeder Jones*

        Interesting. I don’t consider it shady because the information is used to show that a company has a diverse workforce. There are many companies that are proud of their diverse workforce and I am grateful to work for one so that could be affecting my perspective. Everyone has to make the choice that is right for them.

    7. Snack Management*

      A lot of applications ask for that sort of info – race, ethnicity, disability and veteran status. In the recruiting systems I’ve worked with over the years, that information is not visible to hiring managers OR the recruiters. It’s used on a general reporting but isn’t traceable to a specific applicant; the data would be used for things like affirmative action plans and analyzing if a company is attracting applicants in specific demographics and not hiring. So the question itself isn’t unusual or illegal though the specifics of conditions is weird (and not necessary).

    8. Gertie*

      The federal government and federal contractors have goals to hire more individuals with disabilities. The federal government’s target is 12% of the workforce, and federal contractors have a goal of 7% of employees with disabilities as required by rules under section 503 of the Rehab Act. Self-ID of a disability may lead to a competitive advantage in the application and hiring process. If this employer is a federal contractor, they are required to keep all self-id forms separate from your personnel files, and may not share the information with hiring managers/supervisors.

    9. Skeeder Jones*

      I always check the box and here’s why: There are a ton of companies that do use that information in hiring but not in the way you might think. If you are neck and neck with another candidate, they take the disability into consideration to ensure that they are NOT discriminating and it might actually be the thing that puts you ahead of the competition. Additionally there are list of employers that are top places to work with disabilities and being on the list can be highly coveted. They have to show that they have diversity and I believe it can have a positive impact on hiring to self-identify.

  25. Mrs. Psmith*

    I work at a small branch of a much larger organization, so probably different for K-12 education. I’ve also never dealt with the scheduling type of accommodations (work from home allowances, etc.) since those are dealt with directly manager-to-employee.

    However, because I order the supplies for several departments I’ve been in charge of getting physical accommodation items for people in the building and what makes the process much easier for a manager to sign off on is to show up with some links to items you think would help. For example, you know you need detachable back rest, ergonomic mouse and keyboard, standing desk converter, under desk foot rests, etc. Research the items that you think would work best with some solid price points to send to your manager, that way the purchaser doesn’t need to guess at what you need (or buys what THEY think you need). Even better if you know which suppliers your departments order from so you can search those websites (i.e., we order most items through Staples, so people will bring me links to Staples products).

  26. Annie ADA*

    We have a separate ADA department where I work. We have gotten in trouble in the past when we have bought adaptive devices for someone without first going through said department.

    I currently have an employee who would love some type of special mouse for his wrists. I told him he needs to, well, basically declare his need. Then someone from that department will come out and evaluate his workspace and then work with him to determine what we buy. He didn’t want to go through that hassle, so I haven’t been able to do anything for him yet.

    And, granted, it is a bit of a hassle. But permanent wrist damage is probably worse!!

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        list at my company, that is – we can buy any of 5 different mouse styles ranging from $10 to $50 without any input from mgmt needed, and I think the developers can get the fancy ones that cost up to $100 with no approval needed.

  27. AdAgencyChick*

    I have a condition that, although minor, has required a couple of surgeries, and my physical therapist recommended a special keyboard setup that requires installation of hardware that costs about $200 (and can be mistaken by the uninitated for a setup that more frequently costs about $50).

    I’ve never had an issue with being denied a request for the setup, even though I haven’t mentioned the ADA ever and the condition is minor. Where I do sometimes run into trouble is that it takes weeks or months to get the hardware installed when I start a new job or when I move desks, even when I give the company plenty of advance notice. Also, I’ve learned that I have to provide a link to the type of hardware I need, AND ALSO an explanation of why the $50 hardware is not a workable substitute.

  28. diabetty*

    I’ve never requested formal accommodations (i.e. through HR) but I’ve worked out informal arrangements with my bosses over time that work for me. I have type 1 diabetes, which doesn’t usually affect work–but it does mean that, at least in my situation, I need to eat at very consistent times of the day and may need to bring a snack/juice box into meetings. After I explained that need, my previous bosses have had no issue with me blocking off my lunch on my calendar so that it doesn’t get scheduled over.

    I may request more formal accommodations at my next job, where it seems like the workload will be much higher and the pace is faster. I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid meetings getting scheduled over my lunch, I’ll just need my bosses to have my back when I bring food or drinks into meetings with higher-ups.

    1. Type 1 Teacher*

      Similar story here. I teach high school and my lunch times had been moved around some. For the next year, I just sent a quick email requesting a specific lunch time as an accommodation and no one batted an eye.

      I work in a larger district so I think we’re relatively used to making accommodations for students that making them for teachers isn’t that big of a deal.

  29. Ellen*

    I have diabetes. The only thing I kind of need is to let people know, just so they can tell any medical staff that end up treating me if there is a problem. I work in a hospital, doing food prep. Only one problem has occurred- a brand new coworker of mine did the “I had a relative that had that! She died.” Thing, which is so…. supportive? (Seriously, no one would do that to someone with cancer, wtf) and has then made it VERY clear that everything that ever happens (we have had a LOT of problems training her, so she gets a lot of stuff wrong) is because of my eating habits and my diabetes. She went so far as to search my car and report to our supervisor that I had eaten a bagel. On my day off. The work situation is fine. The co worker has me looking for another job.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      whoa. The coworker, and the manager who did not shut that shit DOWN. IMMEDIATELY.

      Wow, and good luck getting out of there soon.

      1. Sabina*

        Yep, had it done to me, only it was even more ridiculous–“oh, you’re having surgery for cancer? My sister had surgery for cancer and it just made the cancer mad and it spread and killed her!”

        1. Media Monkey*

          it made the cancer mad? yeah, because that’s a thing that happens. clearly if she hadn’t had surgery it would have gone away quietly (WTF?)

      2. Lora*


        Which is why my #1 advice to people who just got a diagnosis is, “be super careful who you tell, because you do NOT want to deal with the a-holes who say stupid crap the whole time you’re trying to deal with this.”

      3. Anax*

        Yeah, they do.

        When I mention my dad having pancreatic cancer, they all ask when HE died, too.

        (Thankfully, Dad got REALLY lucky, and he’s fine.)

    2. WellRed*

      Have you complained about her harassment of you over your protected condition? And what was she doing going in your car?

      1. Observer*

        I was thinking the same thing.

        Please raise a ruckus over that. Aside from the fact that her over-all behavior is trash, what on earth is your supervisor thinking in NOT shutting down someone who goes into someone else’s car without permission!?

        1. Ellen*

          I complained after she went on a clenched-teeth angry rant at me for being a bitch for not being psychic (I guess? Her fury was not rational) and we had a meeting with two supervisors so we could figure out what I was doing to make her act like that. While at the meeting, she hung onto her anger like a tightly coiled spring, and it was obvious. You know, writing this all down just highlights how wacky this all is.

      2. Allypopx*

        Yeah that’s a fireable offense I would make a huge stink about it. Honestly I’d threaten to call the cops. At least if it happens again.

    3. roger that*

      I am a two-time cancer survivor and can attest that people actually say that all the time to cancer patients. I had a coworker tell me (while I was in chemo) that her aunt with breast cancer had just been hospitalized on her birthday for emergency surgery for an infection. I got a LOT of stories that went like “oh, my aunt had breast cancer! She died.” Which is all to say that I think, unfortunately, people really are that crappy to a lot of us with a lot of different medical conditions and should probably all think a lot more before words come out of their mouths. :)

      1. Ellen*

        I’m so very sorry to be wrong. I had a grandmother that had cancer, and lived happily another 30 years. (I’m old, she would be well over 100 at this point)

  30. NY2BOS*

    After I was offered my current job and was told how much sick time we receive, I asked to have permission to occasionally work remotely as needed because I have Crohns and spending 30 minutes to an hour each way on 2 different buses plus walking can be challenging during a flair. I had not expected this to be an issue, since it has never been a problem in the past and everyone remote connects to the server every day from our computers anyway. Having just received the offer, I did not know much about the work environment or that the HR director was extremely suspicious of remote work.

    They first asked me to send a written request including how often I thought I would need to do this (very rarely, at the time it had been 8 months since my last flair), and then asked me to come in in person to meet with the HR person. She told me multiple times that she didn’t understand how I would be able to work remotely if I was unable to come into the office, that our policy was “very generous” (aka state required minimum), and that I could just save other PTO if I needed more sick time. I told her I didn’t think it was fair to tell people with chronic illnesses that they could not use vacation or personal time the way other staff members could in case they got sick. I also offered for her to call back my references to discuss how I do working remotely, since it is something I occasionally needed in my past positions as well. Several times during the meeting I used the phrase “reasonably accommodation” and she also told me several times she really wasn’t sure it was going to work out.

    I’m not sure what exactly happened when I left, but when I was about to walk in the door at home my now-boss called to tell me they were willing to accept my request, and that I would not have to wait the usual 90 days to start using sick time if I needed it.

    After about a year on the job, I also submitted an anonymous suggestion that we needed more sick time, which mentioned that we work with a vulnerable population and the current policy also barely allowed for people to go to their yearly wellness checkups, let alone actually get sick. While I’ll never know for sure if this is why it was doubled a month later, I do know that my letter was nearly quoted in the email explaining the new policy.

  31. Snarkus Aurelius*

    When I was pregnant, my already horrible boss was even meaner. I asked her if I could work from home during my last month until I delivered. Granted this wasn’t an official pregnancy accommodation request, but I asked because my coworker who got this perk (twice) told me to ask for it.

    Here’s the response I got, “When I was pregnant [in the early 1980s], you couldn’t work from home. Bed rest was for bed rest only, not working. So if you want to work from home during your last month, you’ll have to request a vacation or sick day to do that.”

    To this day, I can’t tell if she was being sarcastic or she really did think I was going to do work while taking a vacation day or sick day. Bonus: she didn’t get reappointed (political position) the following year.

    1. Working on a Nickname*

      There are two kinds of people in the world… People who think “because I suffered, others should also suffer”, and those who think “I suffered, and I don’t want others to have the same suffering”. UGH what a tool!

      1. Luna*

        Three kinds. The “I have suffered, but it wasn’t so bad that you can’t do it, either”… hmmm, let’s say 3.5 types of people. The third kind, with a minor alteration of “it wasn’t so bad with me, so obviously yours isn’t, either”.

  32. She's One Crazy Diamond*

    I have multiple mental health conditions and requested FMLA for flare ups and appointments and the ability to work from home. I was granted telecommuting privileges and up to 32 hours of protected leave a month.

      1. Skeeder Jones*

        It means that you can use sick time but they can’t hold that time against you and say that you have used more time than is appropriate/allowed. Those hours aren’t officially counted as sick time in terms of your attendance record. It is part of the FMLA law,

  33. sadbutnotbad*

    Mine’s pretty simple and positive! I have depression–the kind that doesn’t go away, I just manage it my whole life. I had a crisis this summer, but my boss is really positive and open about mental health issues, so all I had to do was tell her I was changing medication and I’d need a lot of sick time to deal with the side effects, and she gave me all the time I needed. Eventually my therapist recommended I sit near a window (my current office is windowless) and I mentioned this to my boss and she said as soon as a reno on another floor is done, I’ll be moved. Easy as that. I didn’t have to bring up any legalese language and I’m not sure I even used the word “accommodation.”

  34. Cranky Neighbot*

    Keeping an eye on this thread. I’m planning to ask for an obnoxious light to be shut off. The light bothers everyone (EVERYONE) but it is particularly aggravating to me for medical reasons.

    1. JustaTech*

      Oh the lights! My office just had a renovation and one of the things they kept telling us was how much we were going to like the new space because it has so much *light*!
      Apparently they had never noticed how many of us had shades over our desks to keep the light *off*.

      So we move to our new space, and between the windows and the LED lights being turned all the way up one coworker’s eye problems flare badly and then there’s a huge fuss about the shades until she can move to a marginally less bright space.

      Frankly I can’t wait for the city to tell use to turn the lights down. (Can’t do anything about the light reflected off the building across the street but wait for winter.)

    2. Earthwalker*

      The department across the hall discovered IKEA leaf shades – giant silk plant leaves – that could be attached to the corner post of a cubicle and then arranged to shade the occupant and computer screen. Pretty soon the whole office was decorated like beach vacation – leaves everywhere – but folks who wanted bright lights could have them and folks who didn’t had shades. Our manager forbade leaves because they looked unprofessional. So instead when the facilities guy came with a work request from someone bothered by the lights, someone would shout, “Stop that! Turn it back on!” And then, over there, “No, no, turn it OFF!” And “No, it’s supposed to be ON!” and “Too bright! I can’t read my screen!” until the poor guy could grab his ladder and flee the area. Sometimes in the morning the lights would go on and off and on and off as warring light ninjas flipped the switch. In an office where everyone wants dimmer lights except for a few hold-outs, those giant leaves really are a great solution.

  35. Lisa B*

    That…. seems incredibly off to put on an application!! I could see putting “the job requires X, please confirm you are able to do X directly or with accommodations,” but straight up asking whether or not you have a disability?!? Going to assume/hope this is a smaller company that does not have an in-house legal counsel. HR should be appalled that goes out. Maybe next time just leave it blank if you’re able??

      1. PhillyRedhead*

        I’ ve seen this often, usually with other demographic information (do you have Latino heritage, are you a veteran, etc.). They’re usually asked after submitting the application, and there’s always an option to choose “Prefer not to answer.”

  36. Jellybean*

    I work in education at a large institution.

    My “accommodation” request is unusual in that I am the parent of a child with disabilities, not the disabled person. I requested an accommodation that allowed me to support his daily therapies/difficulties while retaining employment. I was moved to online program delivery so I could have a much more flexible schedule – I work from home 90% of the time. My hours are erratic (in a good way). I’m on year 4 and it’s been a wonderful experience. I do make less on paper, but the lack of commuting/business clothing/childcare (which is outrageously expensive for disabled children) means I take home the same.

    If you are dealing with issues related to physical challenges like chronic fatigue, I highly suggest you consider online/distance/outreach pathways in K-12 education (your district likely has it). A lot of people think of accommodations as modifying their current job, but sometimes it can mean a different position using the same skills. This is an increasingly more available option due to educational technology changes.

  37. Marlene*

    I’ve asked for specific accommodations for a hearing impairment and am mostly ignored. Bringing it up becomes An Issue so I just learned to let it be and let the cops fall where they may.

      1. Invisible*

        I have a hearing impairment as well (hearing aids in both ears). When my team moved to a new space, I asked for a seat where I could face people coming up to me. Otherwise people would start talking to my back and it would take a while before I figured out they were asking me a question. Well that or touch me which is a whole other issue… I thought this was a reasonable request.

        The admin in charge of the seating decided it would be better if I didn’t get a permanent desk at all! So now I WFH 80% of the time and find somewhere quiet on another floor when I have to come in.

  38. Nonny*

    I work in a group that is theoretically highly aware of accessibility needs, but my poor coworker lost the ability to type and had to file an accessibility complaint with our Disability Services office to be given a private space to use talk-to-text software.

    Honestly, I’ll never look at my leaders in quite the same way again.

  39. Bear Shark*

    I’ve requested both formal and informal accommodations.
    When I was pregnant I formally requested a foot rest under my desk to help with hip and knee pain. That was approved with no trouble and I just had to pick out the one I wanted from our office supply catalog. It might have been more complicated if I’d needed something more specialized that wasn’t available from our standard vendor.
    My information accommodations have been with my bosses when I’ve had injuries I needed physical therapy for and they’ve allowed me to flex my schedule or work from home where I could put my feet/leg up more comfortably. The elevation part of RICE is pretty difficult at a standard office desk.

  40. NeroliRose*

    I have an accommodation on file and approved by HR at my job, but it’s a really odd situation.

    I have depression and PTSD, and several issues with anxiety made worse by both diagnoses. These are official diagnoses and I’ve been treated for them since 2012, and continue to go to therapy. When I’m going through a bad time mentally, I have a few things on my phone that seem to help bring me back to a better mindset; specific pictures, notes that I’ve taken to go along with those pictures, a few apps for breathing exercises, and some music and recordings that I listen to. I worked with my therapist to create this setup, and it works beautifully.

    I started at my job in 2016. I already knew a number of people in the company and was repeatedly told how laid back it was, and so on. When I started working at my job, no one made a big deal about phone use. It was really common to see people checking Facebook, or playing a game for a few minutes, or listening to music using headphones. There wasn’t any “no phones out at work” rule at all. After about a year of working there, my manager brought it up in my review that other people in the office had commented to her on my phone use, and she wants to see me address this by not touching my phone at all. This was a total surprise, because I actually enjoy my job and was using the therapy tools less than usual. Not wanting to go down the “but everyone else does it!” route, I explained what I had on my phone, and she immediately asked me if I really wanted to go the route of requesting an accommodation for a disability. So, I did.

    As an FYI, there was no mention of my phone use affecting my performance; in my first year, I earned two spot bonuses for taking on difficult projects and completing them, and one of my clients even contacted my manager directly to say that I was doing a great job with them. My performance was never an issue.

    I went to HR, completed their request form, and my therapist was kind enough to write a letter to my company on my behalf. I turned everything in, and a very anxiety-ridden week later, I was told that my accommodation was approved. I could look at my phone and wear earbuds at my desk.

    I later found out that a) my accommodation had been approved the same day, but for some reason, HR decided not to tell me until after a long holiday weekend, and b) the owner of the company learned of the accommodation when the old HR person left and a new HR rep came on board, and mentioned something to him when going through her predecessor’s documentation. The owner came to me personally and apologized for the way this was handled, saying that there was absolutely no basis for the complaint in the first place, and that he’s very sorry that I had to go as far as filing a request for an accommodation to do the exact same thing that every other person does – access their phone during working hours.

    1. Observer*

      Interesting. I wonder why your manager handled it this way. It sounds like that had an issue that they didn’t want to admit.

      1. NeroliRose*

        It’s entirely possible.

        She makes a point to frame all communications both to our clients and internally, that doing our job is very labor intensive, takes multiple weeks to do one project, and if any deadline is missed, this will result in an “administrative catastrophe”. We are advised to frame all of our communication and work style in this way, that we are high-intensity and constantly go-go-go. That’s actually not true, and I think that by having anyone on her team do anything that may hint that they’re not working at full-speed capacity and flat out killing themselves over work, she may have felt like it’s a potential crack in the image she’s trying to project.

    2. Anono-me*

      This sounds like absolutely brilliant.

      I would be very interested in hearing more about the more widely applicable applications that you are using; especially the breathing techniques.

      Thank you.

  41. It's Not Fibromyalgia*

    I have a chronic health condition that entails numbness in my extremities, sometimes numbness all over my body, and sometimes pain, as well as other symptoms. Although I have been to many neurologists and other specialists, and had lots of tests, my symptoms are still undiagnosed.

    Because I have no diagnosis, and because I have a lot of self-consciousness about the fact that “it’s just numbness, it’s not pain, I can still move, I can still work”, for a long time I have had difficulty admitting how much this causes stress, anxiety, and diminishes my quality of life.

    I have struggled with this for over 10 years, and have been at my current job about 5 1/2 years. This summer, after a year and a half of therapy and another round of doctors’ appointments and tests, I finally told my manager that I have been struggling with an undiagnosed health condition. I did not give him the details, but based on his treatment of my peers I knew he would most likely be respectful and supportive.

    He was! I got a nicely vague doctor’s note indicating that due to my symptoms I will sometimes need to work from home. I work in tech support / software as a service; although we do have a few offices, we also have many remote workers. For those of us in offices we are allowed to work from home 3 days per quarter, and basically I was just asking for more. All I have to do is let my manager know beforehand, and report in at the end of the day as far as what work I accomplished.

    The last few weeks have been so much more bearable. I had a bad flare-up and worked from home for an entire week. I’m glad that my manager trusts me to get my work done, and is willing to accommodate me and respect my privacy.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      It sucks so much when something is wrong and you don’t even know what it is. I’m so glad your manager is awesome.

      1. It's Not Fibromyalgia*

        Thank you. Yeah, not having a diagnosis is a) very stressful and b) very isolating. I was only able to articulate recently how lonely it is, because I can’t go to a support group and say “I have MS”. I don’t have MS; I’ve never met another person who’s going through what I’m going through. It’s really hard. But I’m working on opening up more to people I trust (my partner and best friend are both great!!).

    2. JHB*

      It’s Not Fibromyalgia – I suffer from a very similar scenario. Multiple specialists but they never could come to a definite conclusion. I semi-jokingly told one of my favorite docs that “Well if you can’t figure it out and fix it, you have to at least figure out what to call it!” He thought for moment and said I had “Unexplained Migratory Neuropathy”. The phrase means next to nothing, basically “nerve-related numbness/pain that moves around and we don’t know why”. That was 10+ years ago, and my situation hasn’t changed much medically, but it is easier having a label to use.

      If the subject must be discussed, rather than stumbling around that I have this “thing” and it’s not X and not Y and they can’t quite figure it out…I just use that phrase and only explain more if the situation warrants it. Silly really – but it’s just easier having something to call it!

      At one point I did need a special keyboard tray and and went to HR, citing my condition. They were helpful. That phrase is all my medical reports and if I go to new doctor, they usually smile when they see it.

  42. 3rd Gen Union*

    1) I’m very short and my workplace uses elevated chairs. So I asked for adjustable footstools (for use by everyone) or an elephant leg footstool so that I can actually use our chairs for the counter. At first I was given the option of the 2 types of footstools from our approved provider that really aren’t anywhere near being useful for me. So I pushed back with Health & Safety Requirements, ACAS recommendations, etc and included links to multiple sellers that sold the elephant’s foot at £30. These are now at all locations I might have to work.

    2) I returned to work post surgery after 5 weeks. I was coming to the limit of my full pay sick leave and would be going to half-pay by the end of the week but I desperately wanted to return anyway because I find it too restricting and not conducive to healing. The surgery was extensive and I was under doctor’s order – by surgeon and GP – for light duties no heavy lifting, arm in a brace, office duties only, etc. I got told I need to attend Occupational Health who fully agreed with my reasonable temporary accommodations which would be for 4-6 weeks.

    The next day, Friday, I go back to work and my manager approaches me, and verbally informs me the company can’t meet my accommodations and that I’d have to go home, getting half-pay until I could return to work fully. I know this is 100% garbage so I politely thank them, get the next transport to the another location where I bump into another location manager. I get on a lot more with this manager but he saw the look on my face, about turned, said goodbye to everyone, and said “Don’t hurt whoever it was too much.” and left. I asked my colleagues if I could commandeer their computer and sent a very long, very detailed email, with quotes on company policy, government websites regarding legal requirements, and fully cited to the Head of HR and asking for a full account of how they ascertained that could not reasonably meet my accommodations. By company policy, union agreement, contract, and law, the only reason they don’t have to meet the accommodations is where it would be financially prohibitive or organisationally (rostering) impossible.

    Without any further communication with me, I was returned to work on Tuesday, and paid full pay for the days I missed, with all the accommodations I asked for. My manager never did talk to me again until he transferred to another location entirely.

  43. 2 Cents*

    Not my own experience but knew a teacher who had MS. School was not very accommodating, except they allowed a service dog. Teacher eventually got an admin degree and was able to transition to a different position in the library, which didn’t require as much physical demands (without help) as classroom teaching.

  44. NCKat*

    I’ve been in a wheelchair since 1997, and it’s been an interesting experience requesting accommodations. I am also hard of hearing, but as I have cochlear implants, and they work very well, it’s not been as much of an issue. So, regarding mobility access issues, both personal and team-related.

    1) A co-worker invited the entire team to her wedding and un-invited me, saying it would be too difficult for me to get to the venue from my car. (I would have declined, anyway).

    2) This same person organized a team luncheon at a local restaurant without telling me it was upstairs and no elevator. Ensue a wildly awkward wait for a space to be cleared on the ground floor so the lunch could take place.
    (Fortunately for my sanity, she was involuntarily retired not long afterwards).

    3) When I was transferred from location A to location B, the location B facilities manager and her team had me come there and meet with them – they went over the building and the facilities with me to make sure everything was accessible. And they followed through. I was bowled over by their kindness and consideration.

    4) The latest request I’ve made is whether a FM loop system is present in the meeting rooms we use. They are working on that one.

    1. Also a project manager*

      FM loops in meeting rooms…I like this one! I can’t believe I never thought of this myself, particularly in our larger conference rooms with microphones. I might ask about this too!

      1. NCKat*

        Do! I upgraded my cochlear speech processors recently, and love the Bluetooth capabilities, but good ol’ telecoil works great if the facility has a FM loop system installed.

    2. Anax*

      I’ve recently started to occasionally use a wheelchair, and goodness, floorplans are so much more complicated to navigate on wheels! I never noticed all the half-inch flooring elevations before, or the slightly-slanted sidewalks.

      (I’m hypermobile, and some of my joints are… fussy; I’m trying to recover from tendinitis in my bad hip right now after a bad subluxation – so I’m able to walk, but not far at all.)

      1. NCKat*

        When I went back to my old college campus a few years ago, what was a great campus was closed off to me – steep ramps, access via back doors, etc, etc. It was a real eye-opener, and I have told the Alumni Council any money I donate to the college from then on is going to be earmarked for improved accessibility.

        Yes, facilities can meet the minimal ADA requirements, but they still don’t resolve all accessibility issues.

  45. Mags*

    I have a slightly disgusting story of an accommodation:

    I work on a large campus (think army base). You can get calls for random drug tests and you must report within 30 minutes. Because the campus is so large, they have the “golden retrievers”: a set of large van/RV things that have a set of bathrooms. I had just returned to work after a terrible neurological condition that made it impossible to walk (literally impossible, google GBS) when I got called for a random drug test. I had to explain on the phone how, as a woman who couldn’t get up from the toilet without grab bars, it would be, uh, a little difficult or messy for me to do a drug test. I was told that I still had to show up, but to tell the sample taker what’s up. Frustrated and very embarrassed, I went out to the van and explained the situation again. He reached into one of the cabinets and pulled out something called a “hat”, saying that I was not the first person who needed help. I know I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was. I am, however, grateful for all the people that came before me and probably had to go through a much more embarrassing process.

    1. MeTwoToo*

      Not an accommodation story, but a ‘hat’ one for you Mags! I worked at a nursing facility. The nurse went into a patients room to get a urine sample for testing, but the very elderly lady was finishing lunch, so the nurse left her the ‘hat’ and told her just to fill it when she wanted. Twenty minutes later the lady toddles out with the hat and the nurse takes it and rushes to her supervisor in a panic. Inside, the liquid was grey and foamy. More panic, nurses think maybe it’s puss? Must be a massive infection. They rush the sample to the lab stat and call the doctor to start antibiotics immediately. Couple hours later the lab calls to ask if this is some kind of joke? Turns out the very alert looking lady had dementia and she filled the hat with her leftover chocolate milk!

  46. Anonymous Teacher*

    Last year I had to go on FMLA for anxiety. I’ve been a teacher for 10 years but things in my life were just spiraling out of control. This year, as an accommodation, I asked for a reduced class load this year and they denied it. But they didn’t deny it outright. My principal offered to let me teach 5 classes instead of 6 (6 is the norm here plus 1 conference period), but I would have to do the school webpage. I don’t know anything about webpages so that wasn’t reasonable. Then I asked if I could have 1st period off. They allowed that but I keep getting written up for not being here on time in the mornings.
    I think at this point they’re just trying to get rid of me. I need a job with good health insurance and I like teaching but the HR department said that I can’t just not work and still get paid for it unless I want to go on intermittent FMLA. I can’t afford that. So, I don’t know what I’m going to do.

    1. CL*

      If you have a union, reach out to your rep. They can help you with situations like this. It may be that HR is right and that your contract obligates you to work the full 7 periods, but you might be able to work something out (maybe give up your planning period, if you have one?). If you’re not part of a union, I would recommend that you look at your teaching contract and check employment law in your state.

      In our district, your HR would be correct, teachers/staff would need to take FMLA to cover the non-working time. And everyone has to be here at the start time, even if they don’t have a homeroom or a first period class.

  47. Jenn*

    Everyone seems to have physical accomodations so I am not sure if my input is appropriate but thought I’d share. I have PTSD and ADHD-C, and currently work in a position at a grocery parttime and a fulltime student. This will be my 10th year with the company so I’m in a unique position of knowing more about my department than my relatively new managers and every position having a high turnover rate.

    I transferred depts 2 years ago following a manager who was also a friend of mine. Because she was a friend, she pointed out that she could tell I was stressed and struggling with some elements of work and we sat down for an improvement session (not a PIP which I was worried about). I needed encouragement to make requests, but I said that having a list of general duties for the night would be useful because I struggle with prioritizing and end up trying to do everything at once. I asked if I could get w refresher on shipment days and got access to a program that let me complete tasks without having to go through 3 different managers for permission (since I had been there long enough that the concern wasnt having information other parttimers shouldnt have access to). I also requested a biyearly meeting which made them realize I hadn’t had a performance review in 5 years and was panicking because I wasnt sure what was expected of me at this point beyond general tasks.

    When my manager left I got 2 new managers who are much more relaxed and dislike communicating. They dont seem to care about night notes or progress reports. Occasionally I get feedback intended for other workers. When the list of tasks and general checking in happened with my old manager happened, my productivity skyrocketed and I got compliments from everyone and was able to be much more independent. Now I am independent but never quite know if I’m doing well and I fear irritating my manager because he seems stressed if I check in, have a note about a product, and tends to shut down when he is overwhelmed (leaving tasks from higher up that I cant really do anything about but get informed about repeatedly). I’d like to ask for some more structure but it feels inappropriate given the position. I am actually very passionate about my work so I wish I could do more at this point.

    1. Anax*

      Absolutely appropriate – and I’m very much in a similar boat! I’ve been working with my manager on prioritization and regular feedback, because PTSD and burnout (and some physical stuff) have had me struggling a bit. I’m sorry your new ones are… not so great.

  48. Jessica Fletcher*

    These were both at my former employer:
    – We had these terrible, unpadded desk chairs. I have a significant back problem, and it was unbearable. We were getting new chairs. I asked for an ergonomic chair and could provide a doctors letter. They flatly refused. They would only buy one type of chair, for everyone. I found one that was on sale for $10 more. They said “we can’t justify the cost.” I ended up being able to get a better chair from a friend at a different company whose office was getting all new furniture (so I got her old one). To make things worse, a coworker who had been there longer and worked under a previous CEO had a very fancy ergonomic chair that cost over $300. The old CEO had given her the company card and let her buy it with no oversight because she had a different condition. But I couldn’t get one for only $10 more than the other chairs they were ordering. When I quit, the CEO who wouldn’t approve the $10 tried (unsuccessfully) to stop me from taking my chair.

    – Same employer. They added a new task to my job, now requiring me to do public presentations. I have panic attacks when speaking in public. I asked not to do it for that reason. It would be easy for the other two coworkers to do the presentations, and I would take a different task from them. Neither of them had panic or anxiety. My boss said no. The CEO said no. They required me to do it. I would get increasing anxiety as the presentation date approached, even getting sick to my stomach in the days leading up to it. Sometimes I could get a coworker to do it for me at the last minute, when the panic really set in. When I would try to renegotiate this assignment, my bosses said, “I think you can do it.” (So do I, in theory! And yet! I cannot!) They seemed to think I could just power thru if I tried hard enough. In practice, I suffered thru and it sucked a lot. Eventually I started taking high doses of anxiety meds, just for this issue. And then I had fewer visible symptoms, so people liked my presentations, so my bosses felt supported in their shitty decision to force me into panic attacks for no good reason. It was pretty terrible!

    – Same employer. I guess this is an accommodation? I have severe seasonal allergies and asthma. I cannot have the windows open in Spring or Summer or Fall. I can’t breathe. The office had AC. My office mate would repeatedly open windows, in our office and in the group room I used every day, despite me explaining that I couldn’t breathe. I chronically coughed at work because I couldn’t breathe. Clients thought I had a chronic illness and some brought me cough drops, vitamins, etc. Management would sometimes tell her to close the windows, but mostly I had to fight with her constantly. When the new CEO came in, I told her about this. The first time it happened, I asked her to say something. Instead of directly addressing it, she said announced at an all-staff meeting, “Everyone needs to keep the windows closed. Jessica has allergies.” Pretty crappy, and the office mate still would sometimes open the window right by my desk before I came into the office. She continued to frequently open the group room window. I coughed less, but to the day I left, long term clients brought me cough drops.

    I’m pretty stoked to never have to deal with those people again!

    1. Jessica Fletcher*

      Several people recommended to contact local disability groups. My employer at the time was a local disability assistance and advocacy center. So take that with a grain of salt! I did contact another group at the time, and learned that the employer’s ADA policy was illegal. It didn’t have the appropriate process for requesting or providing accommodations. It wasn’t even described properly in the handbook. I never pursued something further because I assumed it wouldn’t go anywhere and I’d get fired over it. That place was toxic. So many other problems.

    2. 1234*

      I am so glad that you no longer work at that place! For story #1, I cannot believe this CEO would say “You cannot take this chair that you brought into the office yourself, one that we didn’t pay for, when you leave this job.”

      I had a roommate who had bad seasonal allergies. I always thought she was crying or didn’t get enough sleep, her eyes were so red. While I never really opened the windows (we have AC), she did mention to me to keep them closed as much as possible due to her allergies. Any normal, decent human being would do the same.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Me at this place: *sits, types, works*

      Office mate: *opens window*

      Office mate: *sarcastically* Oh I can’t doooooo that; Jessica has aaaaaaaallergiiiiiiies.

      Me: I do too, you walnut; shut the goddamn window.

      Office mate: O_O *shuts window*

      Okay this would never really happen, but it was very satisfying to imagine, lol.

  49. BlackLodge*

    I am hearing impaired (not deaf but I use hearing aids) and I really struggled answering phones with the single sided headset. I went to my supervisor and asked if they had any other options. She knew what I was getting at and asked me specifically, “are you asking for a ‘reasonable accommodation’?” (I work for county government). I said yes and then within a week or so I was visited by a vendor with various dual-ear headsets for me to try, and the manager of the office made it very clear that I could pick whatever model I felt would serve me best regardless of the cost. So now I get to rock a dual-ear, noise cancelling, wireless headset!

  50. Third or Nothing!*

    Before I went on maternity leave, I talked to my boss about using all my vacation time at the end to extend it. Instead of using that approach, he suggested I save a week in case my daughter got sick before the end of the year (so only use 2 weeks instead of 3) and told me I could work from home for 2 weeks prior to coming back so I could stay with her longer (office culture is very against WFH so that was a big surprise, especially considering how hard it is to care for a child while working). In the end I got to stay with my daughter for almost 3 months. And as a side note, I’m super glad he convinced me to save a few days because I definitely needed to use them!

    I reached out to my boss before my leave was up to let him know I’d need a space to pump since I was planning to breastfeed exclusively. When I came back, they had an office all set up and ready for me to pump in. I got to keep all my stuff in the desk drawer and pump as often as I needed. I also nursed my daughter on my lunch break, even though doing so often meant I went slightly over the allotted hour.

    So basically all I had to do was talk to my boss about what I needed. No forms, no doctor’s notes, just a conversation. Never expected it to be that easy.

    Asking for food I can eat at company catered events, however, has been a much different experience. IDK why getting a dairy free plate is so much harder than converting a spare office into a milking shed, but here we are.

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Ugh, I’m about to announce my pregnancy at work and I just know I’m going to be disappointed with our policies. Despite working at a “progressive” institution (college) in a progressive state that just passed paid parental leave, I’m 99% sure I’ll have to use up all my accrued sick/PTO time before I can go on partially paid state insurance leave. Which means I’ll get to come back to work with a 8-12 week old in daycare and zero sick time. Wonderful.

      1. NCKat*

        Is there an employee website where you can view a maternity leave policy? That should clearly outline what you are eligible for.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          There is, but I don’t believe it’s been fully updated to include the new state law. There are a couple details that I believe are out of compliance with the state and I’ll probably be one of the first employees to use it after the change goes into effect, so I don’t know if anyone knows exactly how it’ll all work out just yet.

          1. NCKat*

            Then you should probably talk to your HR Department if you have one, or if you don’t, with whoever does the HR functions at your workplace.

          2. Third or Nothing!*

            Hopefully it works out better than you expect! Although it stinks that you’re going to end up being a guinea pig for the new policy.

  51. Quiltrrr*

    I was having horrible left arm pain, up into my shoulder. I asked for an ergonomic evaluation, which was refused since my boss was working from home due to his own medical accommodations (it is not normally allowed), and TPTB wanted him to be there for it.

    A standing desk was offered. I wouldn’t be able to stand much because of my knees, and I told the Facilities manager that. Next thing I know, my boss tells me that the Facilities manager told my boss ‘that I have a bad attitude’, and I was forced to take the standing desk.

    The tray on the desk that raises the keyboard off the desk works great, but I have to lean forward really far because the monitors are not close to the edge of the desk, and the bifocals I wear hit the screen ‘wrong’. I know I can’t ask for anything else, because my boss is still not in the office much, and the Facilities manager is petty.

    1. Observer*

      Actually, unless they have a reasonably short time line for your boss to some back, you CAN ask for this to be re-evaluated. The facilities manager is NOT the person who gets to decide this stuff. If your HR is competent, the you should point out that the so called accommodation you were offered actually does not work for you and is very un-ergonomic for you. And that refusing to do an evaluation to figure out what might work does not constitute a “reasonable accommodation” nor can it be in any way considered the “interactive process” that the law REQUIRES.

  52. Luna*

    When I was 19 years old, I had my first job working a minijob in retail because it was approaching the beginning of the schoolyear, and they needed extra people for the school/office supply store. I also have pretty bad knees that make standing for a long time very uncomfortable, and leave me with issues the next day, at the very least.

    That job ended as intended, and I was later called and asked if I was interested for another minijob, this time for the last two months of the year because Christmas. I reminded the manager about my knee issues, that I had told her about previously, and she said she’ll have a chair nearby that I can sit on to give my knees a rest.

    I was never given a chair. About two weeks into that stint of the job, which included no chance for a break to rest my legs because I had to stand at the register the whole time, I went into work on a day off with the assistance of a cane and quit.

    One of my hotel jobs recently, I informed them of my legs ahead of time and said I can do the receptionist work, if I had chances to sit down and rest. I was told I could do some work in the back office if the front desk wasn’t too busy, but chances of sitting down were either diminishing because the hotel got busy (summer vacation; many people travelling) or because the slightly-higher-on-the-end-of-the-short-ladder (were not exactly called shift leads, but were treated as them at times; had longer experience working in hotels) employees ended up pretty much ‘hogging’ the one free space there was to work in the back office on stuff that they could’ve easily done at the front desk computers, too. (And probably take less time; that particular computer in the back office had frequent issues of being slow)

    And if I tried to still work, despite needing a cane to keep my balance (I had messed up my leg the day before, thinking I could use a typical push-scooter to get to work…), I was sent home because there was no work to do in the back office. So… yeah, we can say my attempts and/or hopes of getting at least some consideration, if not accomodation, for a health issue didn’t work out so well.

  53. Black Bellamy*

    Fortunately I work for a giant corporation that is very well provisioned for accommodation needs. Besides the usual wrist pads, keyboard, or controller setups, we will build you a stand up workstation, provide you with custom lights, noise-cancelling equipment, if you need a special chair we get you one, you need your desk higher or lower, we have heaters and fans for your temperature needs, just about anything so whatever your ailment or condition is we just want you to be able to work without worrying about whatever. The only request I’ve seen a push back on was a fridge. They were told no problem bring in your own minifridge and we’ll have maintenance clear some space and set it up for you.

  54. Also a project manager*

    Some background: I’m a fed and accommodations for disabilities/health concerns are processed through the EEO office. My own agency outsources EEO-related activities to the main EEO office in our building.

    I have a hearing disability and wear hearing aids. My newest pair (which I purchased and received in February 2018 – this is relevant) has bluetooth which allows me to stream audio from my iPhone directly into my hearing aids. When I got these hearing aids, I immediately put in a request with EEO for an accommodation to get a government iPhone for work so I could finally make/receive phone calls and be in conference calls by myself. The EEO office doesn’t have a good reputation for working with people who have non-military-related disabilities or health concerns. After seven months of unresponsiveness, I stopped asking them for updates and went straight to our agency’s Chief of Staff who got the agency administrator to direct the IT team to give me an iPhone for accommodation. I have no idea if the EEO office even processed my paperwork.

    Nothing surprised me about how long it took and how unresponsive the EEO office was. I wish it hadn’t been the case.

  55. hanners*

    I work in a government type job in Canada, so they’re pretty good about accommodations, but there are a lot of hoops to jump through to justify them if the cost is high. For instance: getting my ergo keyboard and mouse was no big deal and they arrived within a week of me ordering and were approved by my manager. Getting a height adjustable desk, on the other hand, required a note from my physio, an in house ergo consult, an outside ergo consult, approval from the VP level, and 8 weeks leadtime on the order. Since the leadtime is so long the company has started investing in “loaner” hardware for sit/stand desks to help out people who need help now.

  56. cmdrspacebabe*

    I have ADHD, chronic pain, and mobility issues. Most of my accommodations wouldn’t be relevant for teaching – e.g. working from home, or moving my desk to a more isolated space to avoid distraction.
    However I have also been successful in getting accommodations for certain tasks, largely administrative work, which is a major weak point for me: I’m able to offload some of those tasks onto coworkers who are better-suited, leaving me with enough energy to do my serious work. If it’s possible to transfer some of those more simplistic tasks that tend to add up, like cleanup or grading or photocopying or what-have-you, that might be of use.

  57. BlueDay*

    At one job, I just used the standard wired keyboard and mouse that I was given on my first day. After about a year, I started getting chronic wrist pain. I bought a wrist rest and angled mouse from Amazon to use at home for a total of about $25, and that helped a lot, so I asked my supervisor if I could get the same things for work too. All my teammates had wireless mouses and keyboards and decorative mouse pads and various wrist rests, so I didn’t think it’d be a big deal. But, since I was getting them specifically to help with pain, my supervisor said I had to be evauluated by a doctor and get a doctor’s note saying I needed them. I told her I’d just buy them myself since it’d be less hassle, but she kept insisting that she JUST WANTED TO HELP and didn’t want me to pay for something I’d be using at work. So I had to use vacation time to go to the doctor, pay a $25 copay, and get a note. Didn’t really feel grateful to get the mouse and wrist rest after that.

    1. 1234*

      So the $25 you ended up spending on the co-pay to get a “free” mouse and wrist rest could’ve been spent ordering the items off Amazon for work? *eye roll*

  58. AWSW*

    My housemate is a middle school teacher with a disability, so I asked her about this. She works in a medium-large public school district in the United States. She says there’s an ADA coordinator at the district level, but each individual school is responsible for getting you the supports you need (such as an ergo desk/chair/footrest set up). That means that it comes down to your school’s administration and, more importantly, their budget. Our school district has an office to complain though, if your admin won’t help.
    However, as some commentators noted above, this gets tricky when what you’re asking for is not a physical accommodation, but rather something around reduced work load due to chronic fatigue or something. She has not found the district office to be very accommodating of anything like that. One thing that she was able to get was a rolly chair that’s kind of stool so she can roll around the room when she’s too tired to stay on her feet and a projector that can display her computer screen so that she doesn’t have to write on a board.

  59. Arts Admin 4 Life*

    Mine was a temporary request. During the last few months of being pregnant with my 2nd child, I developed sciatica, which was worsened by sitting all day long. In my weekly with my boss, I explained that my obgyn had recommended weekly PT for 6 weeks and getting a standing/sitting desk attachment. My boss said “sure” and it was taken care of right away. She’s also a mom, so she understood the pains of pregnancy (I’m lucky that she’s not one of those managers who thinks I should suffer just because she did!). I think going in with a clear directive from my doctor was helping in getting my accommodations approved.

  60. Zap R.*

    I once requested accommodations at a job. I had a very young, very inexperienced manager who decided to wing it while the HR Director was on vacation. My request was turned down for being “unfair to my teammates.” I got fired when I threatened to make a human rights complaint. This is not legal in my home province and the company got in trouble, but it did mean spending a year and a half of my life going through a fairly traumatic tribunal process.

    Fortunately, you’re a teacher and I assume part of a union? If so, you’ll have access to some sort of Teacher Welfare Officer. Make full use of them – they can not only offer you options but can direct you to other resources the union can provide that you might not be aware of.

    TL;DR: Lean on your union – that’s what they’re there for!

  61. Lauren*

    Migraines – Never really asked just starting doing this stuff.

    – Had a flickering light above me, so I got the maintenance people to turn it off since it was a recurring flicker no matter what they did. I asked my cube mate if he minded and he preferred that light being off, and though it annoyed my boss to have it – I asked if he preferred me having a seizure since they’ve tried getting the electrician to fix it and its not fixable. They also looked into a computer glare shield, but I didn’t really need it.
    – I get highly concentrated lemon soda ordered for me in the weekly shopping. It stops most migraines usually.
    – I used to wear a cold headband thing that I left in the freezer, and would wrap additional ice packs on my to stay on my head. Always made people laugh, but they got used to the site.
    – Work from home whenever I get an attack with nausea.

      1. Lauren*

        San Pellegrino Limonata and San Benedetto Limone Lemon – both work wonders. Something about the high concentration of lemon and sugar that opens something in the brain so the muscles relax. Insane amount of calories, but since the only other option is decapitation when I get a bad one – the extra calories mean nothing compared to the relief I get.

  62. Academic librarian with disabilities*

    Due to a chronic progressive condition that exhibits in joint pain and fatigue, I have had numerous instances of requesting and receiving accommodations at the work place.
    When I was K-8school librarian, the conserving energy and limiting standing as much as possible.I also couldn’t lift, carry, push a book cart, shelve or move furniture. I also had difficulty standing for a periods of time. I know but we were creative. I was excused from lunch duty, pick up/bus duty.
    I had teaching stools scattered so that I didn’t have to stand and teach.
    I trained older 5th grade and up to be my legs and hands, pulling books for classes and shelving.

    I did take my present job knowing that in a short time that I wouldn’t have the stamina to teach back to back classes and kids.

    I actually got rid of the tables and chairs. We bought soft light moveable stuffed modual seating. Students worked on clip boards and had writing boxes. This way the students moved the furniture to adapt to the age level of the students.

    I had a special track ball.
    If I was having an especially bad week, I just did my classes.
    In my present position, I have Disabilty parking. A scooter. A standing desk in my office and a couch (I paid for the couch) I attend meetings remotely sometime even when I am on campus to save my energy. Sometimes I lecture and TAs take over the class and I can leave.

  63. queen b*

    I had severe tendinitis in my right wrist. It’s not completely gone, but it’s getting better. I asked for a complete ergonomic evaluation at work (it helped that I had a doctor’s note) and got a vertical mouse, a footrest, a standing desk, dual monitors, and a split keyboard/gel pads. It was awesome.

    A boss I had in college said to always ask for what you need and a good workplace will follow through on accommodations. Luckily, I worked for a large fortune 500 one that had the money to do this. On the first day of my new job, my boss asked me to be up front with accommodations so I am hopeful here, too.

  64. Rachel Greep*

    My experience is as a public high school teacher. I did not request the accommodation; I was the accommodation. A teacher was undergoing cancer treatment and was often ill and fatigued. She had a 504 plan in place. I was a licensed teacher hired as a long-term substitute to co-teach with her. The plan was that we would collaborate. She would teach her classes as normal, with me in the room observing. We would lesson plan together, and any time that she was unable to teach, I would seamlessly step in. This could be if she came in late, needed to leave early, needed a break during the day, or couldn’t come in at all. This unfortunately did not happen; she was too ill and never returned to work. I actually never met her until several months later and basically took over her classes. But this was the plan they had for her, backed up by a 504 plan.

  65. Art3mis*

    I have Lymphedema in my lower legs (at the time just the left one). I made a comment to my PT that working from home would make it easier to elevate my leg to help with the swelling. She said she would support me asking for this (she was also a MD). So I requested it and my manager allowed it. I was able to WFH for two years. Until… we got new management. Who revoked everyone’s WFH accommodation (I wasn’t the only one). I had to go to my doctor and have her fill out a lengthy multi-page form to request an accommodation. Work decided it was no longer reasonable to allow me to WFH and waited until the day I was to report back to the office to schedule a meeting to negotiate. And then they scheduled it for a different building which was hard for me to get to because walking with swollen legs can be hard. But whatever. Anyway, they wouldn’t let me WFH any more, they offered a handicap parking spot (which were further away from my desk than where I normally parked), a desk closer to the bathroom (it was already close to the bathroom, until they moved it a few months later), and a thing to elevate my leg on. I did get that thing after two months, but it was a thinly carpeted wooden box that was very uncomfortable to use. So basically I got nothing. I don’t work there any more.

  66. Beth*

    A person we know just put in a request for an accommodation that’s outside the usual range, and we’re waiting to see how hard they have to fight for it.

    We live in south Florida, in the hurricane strike zone. The friend works for the county. County personnel in their division have some unusual duties, including being required to staff county hurricane shelters (even though this division is in no way related to emergency services). Staffing a hurricane shelter is a nightmare — it can involve being on duty for 20 hours at a stretch because there’s no one to relieve you and you have to call in every hour. It can involve being out in godawful weather: if you’ve never been through a hurricane, you may not know that the weather is HOT: all that wind and rain is taking place in high temperatures (80s, 90s). If you aren’t in a place with a generator and air conditioning, you are in a sauna. If you have medication that has to be kept below a certain temperature, or are yourself vulnerable to high temperatures . . .

    This friend of ours is diabetic, and in hot weather, their condition rapidly worsens. The requested accommodation is for them not to be required to fill emergency shelter staffing positions during hurricanes, because there’s no way to be certain that they won’t end up in charge of a shelter full of frightened people, in emergency conditions likely to cause rapid physical collapse. Seriously, this kind of assignment could kill them.

    I’m just hoping the higher-ups at the county don’t decide to pitch a fit over this — but it’s amazing how clueless the upper levels of county administration can be when it comes to working conditions.

    1. Madeleine Matilda*

      I’d be interested to know how this plays out. Reasonable accommodation is generally about finding a way to allow someone to complete essential work tasks with an accommodation rather than taking that task away. I’d suggest that your friend consider offering alternative ways they could assist in an emergency. If staffing the emergency shelters is a condition of the job and was known to your friend when your friend was hired that could be a factor in denying the request or even a legal reason to fire your friend. Not saying that is necessarily right, but could be an outcome if there is no accommodation and the task is essential to her job.

      1. Beth*

        It’s not a condition of the job: it’s not even really related to the job, except that the county has shelters that it operates when a hurricane emergency is declared, and this particular department of the county has been given the short straw of being on call to staff them.

        During the lead-up to Hurricane Dorian, this friend, and several others in their department, were required to drive to a remote location (over an hour each way) and put in a 12-hour shift prepping a shelter. (It then took almost two months, and intervention from the union, for them to be paid for this time.)

        Their usual workplace is an air-conditioned facility ten minutes’ drive from their home. Their usual work duties occur entirely indoors, and are completely unrelated in any way to emergency response.

    2. Anono-me*

      A few years ago, a nearby city decided to require all city employees to also be reserve firefighters. This was designated as a critical part of the job. This meant they ‘had’ to terminate a number of senior employees and employees with health conditions. The city’s staffing and health insurance costs dropped dramatically. And then the lawsuits started….

  67. Madeleine Matilda*

    I work for a Federal government agency. There is a formal process involving forms, review by our medical office, discussion with your supervisor, etc. Supervisors also can approve requests without the complete formal process. For example, I have medical treatments every week. When that began, I asked my supervisor if I could adjust my schedule to work earlier so I wouldn’t need to use leave to make those appointments. He said yes. I could have gotten documentation if needed, but it was within his purview to approve a schedule change. As a supervisor I have approved simple accommodations like my schedule change and have worked through the official process with staff for more complex ones that meant adjusting duties or purchasing equipment. Out of my staff of 10, half have an accommodation of some sort ranging from telework, schedule adjustments, task adjustments, and specialized equipment. The outcome is productive staff who feel valued and who produce good work for our employer.

  68. bananaboat*

    I work in education. I am autstic. My accomodation is that I do not go on trips. I can’t cope without the space to get away from the kids even for just a loo break. I need my break times to calm down. So I don’t go on trips and instead pick up an extra duty or stay with the more difficult classes.It’s quite simple but it makes my life so much easier. new boss though and she has steam rolled a lot of my other accomodations so I hope this oen will stay otherwise i’ll need to leave

  69. CL*

    If you are covered by a union, reach out to your union rep. Not only will they know what your contract specifies, they will also know about other accommodation cases and can use that experience to advocate for you. If possible, get a medical/mental health professional to write a letter stating that you need the accommodation and/or certifying that you have X condition that the district needs to provide accommodations for.

  70. Voc Ed Teacher*

    High School teacher and chronic migraine sufferer along with a few other diagnoses. I asked to not have to teach with all the lights on–this is conducive in my classroom, not do hall duty on days where it is an issue, and not attend loud assemblies in the gym where lights and noise are too much. I’ve not had much push back from my administrators and did not have to do the formal process that some in the district have been required to do.

    1. Quill*

      Spirit day… I’m cringing just remembering it. You needed earplugs to just be in the building during those kinds of assemblies.

      1. Anax*

        Oh, yeah. They wore me out so badly that I would fall asleep in the middle of the assembly – which was quite a feat with that much noise.

  71. Anon in London*

    Mine was hard but ultimately worth it.

    I got diagnosed with ADHD at the same time as having performance problems during probation.

    Ultimately following a successful formal grievance, probation was out on hold to put the adjustments recommended by Occ Health in place.

    This has now happened and things have turned around completely.

    I’ve also been able to see clearly where part of my role was a bad fit for skills, and I’ve been successful at moving to a nearly identical role without that problematic piece. Same team, same job (minus the data work) and same pay.

    It was HARD. I felt like I had no choice but take a grievance because the adjustments were promised but not happening. It worked. I had the support of my union and ultimately once my bosses realised where things had gone wrong, they were extremely fair. I have worked hard to overcome the emotions that went with all of that and see the situation in a positive light.

    I live in the UK where our relatively-better discrimination laws don’t necessarily lead to better outcomes unless you know how to fight for them.

    Commenters here were really kind to me in the open threads. Thanks for that, if you commented before.

    I got the news about the alternative role today and I’m so happy. Life is good!

  72. Junior Dev*

    I work at a corporation. I have requested three categories of accommodation:
    * physical health (mostly ergonomic equipment for my back problems) – I got a doctors note from the doctor who treated my back pain
    * mental health that is actually a unique request (asking for a private room at a conference where everyone normally shared rooms; asking for my desk to be moved to a quieter location – I just asked for the conference room saying something about “health reasons,” but the desk stuff was hard and tedious and I did end up needing a note from my psychiatrist. (I have PTSD so hyper vigilance means this is worse for me than most people.)
    * mental health accommodations that were an attempt to “manage up” for a terrible boss—she wasn’t writing anything down which led to yelling at me when she didn’t communicate and I didn’t read her mind, she was making me attend 4 hour meetings with no agenda and no breaks, and so I got my therapist to write a note saying I needed written assignments and breaks during meetings longer than an hour. There are reasons related to my mental health issues why I found these problems especially stressful but I’m sure anyone would dislike them.

    Oddly, getting my desk to be at a quieter location was the hardest thing. I think the company is attached to its open office plan and to never admitting that it doesn’t work for some people.

    I ended up transferring to a different department so the ones about my boss and my desk location weren’t needed anymore but they helped me keep my sanity while I got out.

    I work at a west coast software company (you haven’t heard of it unless you also work in software).

    1. Aspie AF*

      The most frustrating aspect about my own requests to move to a quieter location were that the people dismissing them had private, enclosed workspaces.

      1. Observer*

        Totally not surprising, though. Call me cynical, but I’d be willing to bet that they don’t want the plebes to share their status symbols.

  73. Ange*

    My experience has varied. At my last job I was having back pain (mainly caused by work) and asked for an occupational health referral to discuss possible accomodations. And asked and asked and asked. Nothing. Then I hurt my back moving a heavy piece of equipment over some damaged flooring, was out for a week, came back and put in an incident form. Because it was over 5 days, it was externally reportable, and I had an occupational health appointment within a week. They did then adjust my job, but would keep “forgetting” and scheduling me in locations I couldn’t work. I spent a lot of time pushing back until they finally got the message that there were certain things I would not be doing.

    Current job: they agree to accomodations, but my manager seems to dislike actually giving them to me. E.g. we agreed that when there is building work at our main site, I can work from our secondary site (to avoid asthma flare-up). When building work began over the summer, my manager kept delaying, or saying she would just put me over there for a day or two, despite me having major coughing fits due to the dust. Eventually she did agree to send me over until the work was done, but not until she accused me of attacking her by saying I couldn’t breathe.

  74. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

    I have fibromyalgia. The pain is increased with heat and also if I sit for too long. I got accommodations for a standing desk. I also got accommodations for having fans at my desk. While I don’t have a formal accommodation for it, my co-workers and boss are understanding that I keep my office at 70° or even as low as 68°.

    I also asked for an accommodation to limit the amount of lifting I have to do but my job description already limited that so I did not need one.

  75. NotSettledOnANameHere*

    My office accommodates most requests.

    Anything like an ergonomic keyboard, sit stand desk, or new chair is just ordered. Most work from home requests are also honored- unless the job doesn’t allow it, like the reception or facilities roles. If for some reason the manager does not automatically approves these things, employees go to HR (me). I have been vocal about accessibility, and that I am someone with an invisible disability, so it makes it a little easier for employees to come ask for help. We walk through their options (formal ADA or informal) and they direct their process. We ask for their input on accommodations and will suggest others. I meet privately with the manager before we meet as a group, to explain the ADA process, the law, and their responsibilities. That is particularly important with hidden things, like anxiety or depression, as I often have to explain that just like you wouldn’t ask why someone has a wheelchair, you don’t ask why someone else needs time for therapy or reset space. You just adjust. Then the manager, staff member, and I meet as a group and discuss the options, make a plan, and go forward. I follow up with each to make sure it’s working and see if we need to adjust. Every meeting or conversation is documented and notes sent to all participants for correction or clarification, just in case managers change or my role turns over later. My predecessor didn’t’ do this, and it was problematic.

    Most people don’t ask for things they don’t need. Reading these stories about people who were treated poorly for asking for help doing their job makes me really mad.

  76. The Man in the Hat*

    I had somewhat serious pain in my ankle – needed a chair at my desk instead of standing for a couple shifts, then had to wear special shoes that aren’t uniform-compliant (basically, they don’t come in pure black). My boss was fine with both – I didn’t even have to go through a formal process, it was more of a “Hi, Bob, my ankle’s effed up and this is what the doc said to do about it.” “Works for me, now go back to work.” On the other hand, I work in an office of less than a dozen people.

  77. Addison*

    I was working in a cubicle in a very distracting environment. While the noise was definitely annoying, the visual distractions were the biggest issue for me (imagine ADHD-like struggles, except my issues are caused by a TBI not a disorder, and couple that with partial vision loss). So slapping on a pair of noise canceling headphones wouldn’t even come close to addressing the issue.

    My boss mentioned “eventually moving me into an office (of which there were plenty available and her comment was totally unprompted), so a few months later I specifically requested one. She reported back that the higher ups said no (the whole management team is less than 5 people). Why they said no is unknown but their explanation boiled down to office politics and didn’t even make sense. I made a second request awhile later, although I no longer recall the time frame. This time I explained more I depth why I needed the office. But again my request was denied.

    I really didn’t want to make an official ADA request. I knew it could complicate my work relationships, especially because I was trying to address an issue that people couldn’t see and o one whose severity was misjudged because I did so much to compensate for it. But finally I decided I couldn’t wait any longer because my work performance was suffering. I went to the effort of finding a neuropsychologist, scheduling a neuropsychological evaluation, and used my vacation time for the day-long appointment. In the end, I learned some new things about my brain and the way it works, and I got my office shortly thereafter. There was definitely some tension with my boss immediately afterwards though, and it was brought up in a passive aggressive way in my end of year review. But ultimately, it has been a tremendous help and the initial backlash was both minor and short lived.

  78. Chaotic Neutral*

    Twice I had to ask for accommodations due to injuries- which you think would be simple! Once I was on crutches and working as a cashier- even with a doctor’s note my boss refused to let me sit on a stool. Another time (in a different job) I fractured my wrist at work- they paid my related medical expenses and moved me temporarily to a different department with less physical work. The job I had during my first pregnancy didn’t even wait for me to ask- they offered a more comfortable work station and extra breaks.

  79. Lana Kane*

    I supervise staff and have handled requests for accommodations. We work in a large org that has an ADA office. Requests for ergo equipment, for example, don’t go through them unless the person’s manager is being difficult about it (we aren’t difficult, so for my dept those are things we handle internally). The requests I’ve worked on so far:

    Employee with a chronic condition requesting a flexible schedule – we worked with the ADA rep and HR to make sure timekeeping was done correctly since the flexibility the employee was requesting was somewhat complicated. We were able to make it happen because it didn’t impact the work. The employee had strict parameters around clock ins and meal breaks, but they got their accommodation.

    Employee with a chronic condition requesting to work from home – we worked with the ADA rep to make sure that the work needs were addressed, since WFH was not something we offered to the rest of the team. We agreed to a 3 month WFH schedule to see how it went, with specific instructions for the employee on the work they had to be able to get done for this to be successful. The nice thing was that it went well and we were able to convince the higher ups that it was something we could offer dept wide.

    Employee with a chronic condition wanting a later shift than what we offer- we’re working that one through with the ADA office now. This one is more complicated because the employee has performance issues. The experience I am having so far is that we’re working together to see what our responsibilities under the ADA are given the issues, and the level of discipline the employee has so far. This has been the hardest one I have worked on because the situation is a lot more sticky, so I am very grateful that we have an ADA office to help us navigate that.

  80. Mobuy*

    About four months before I got my teaching job, I was diagnosed with cancer. My principal heard about my diagnosis through the small-town grapevine and hired me anyway. I had very few accommodations that I needed, but for the six weeks of my radiation therapy I needed to leave as soon as school got out every day for six weeks. (Remember, this was my very first year of teaching at this school, so I had no track record. It was also October-November, so early in the year as well.) Before I had finished even asking permission to leave at 2:30 every day (contract hours were until 3:15), he was nodding his head and telling me “Your health comes first.”

    Just asking is the first step, but having a great boss sure helps those accommodations go through!

  81. Hawthorne*

    I’ve read through some of the comments here and agree with the comments that say–ask for what you need. I don’t work in a school, so I cannot speak for them, though.

    I didn’t have to go through HR because my manager is very accommodating. I have MS, which comes heat sensitivity and a lot of doctor’s appointments.

    When our AC was broken this past summer and the summer before, I was allowed to leave the office and work from home (telecommuting is allowed in certain instances) when it got too hot for me to function. Additionally, I was allowed to get a standing desk to allow for more mobility (something recommended for MS patients). And even for example, this coming week, I have to be in the hospital for observation for a new medication and because it’s boring and I’m just sitting around, I’ve been allowed to just work from the hospital.

    A lot of the time, I’ve found that just asking and having at least a vague idea of what I need is very helpful. Provided your workplace isn’t filled with jerks, you’ll probably be surprised by how accommodating they can be.

  82. International Holding, Unlimited*

    I requested a standing desk while I was in a brace after a spine injury. I provided a doctor’s note and filled out our form. My HR person was happy to put in the request, but warned me that it might take a while to go through. I was able to get a desk riser from IT, but it wasn’t big enough for all of my monitors or anywhere to take notes, so not ideal. About a week later, the company had a new area of desks installed along one wall, which included some sit/stand desks right next to the door (the standing desks were narrow rectangles, instead of our big L-shaped sitting desks, so it made more space). My boss swiped one of them and we traded my normal desk into the empty space. Nobody commented.

    It’s likely I would eventually have gotten a standing desk – one of my colleagues requested one with a doctor’s note and got it without resorting to skulduggery, but I don’t know how long they delayed.

  83. MyTwoBits*

    In 2003, I was a full-time substitute at a grade school.When the school buses were late, the children on the free breakfast program were given their little box of cereal to take to class, but denied the milk. The federal program requires that children must receive the full meal, because it is based on nutritional needs. I complained to the new principal. She sneered and then ignored my complaint. Soon after, she retaliated by instituting a new rule that no one on morning hall duty could sit on a stool. Since I had severe and obvious knee arthritis and used a cane, I asked for an accommodation of keeping the stool that I relied on. The request was denied because I didn’t tell them I needed an accommodation when I was hired (which is not a thing, btw). The principal then determined that I was unfit to serve at this challenging school and would be transferred to another school. I was very attached to the children and knew all the staff well, so this was a terrible blow. I called the teachers’ union to let them know that I had asked for accommodation and received retaliation. They said they couldn’t help me since I wasn’t a union member. I told them that I knew that; I was just giving them the information so they would be able to protect their members (my co-workers) who might be re-assigned using this excuse or be afraid to request accommodation. They said several teachers at the school had already called about my situation and thanked me for my call. So, I got a new job quickly (in a different field) and quit.
    When I interviewed for my current position, I was recovering from surgery and in radiation treatment for bc, but the start date was a month away and I would be done by then. I didn’t mention the bc for fear that the job offer would vanish. They couldn’t tell that I needed a cane because I was only interviewed over the phone. Then, they moved the start date up by a month and insisted that I start immediately! So I fudged by telling them that I was required to give a month’s notice on my current job, but I could work for both employers part-time during that month. The employer I was leaving knew the bc situation and let me work 15 hr/week for the month, I worked 20 hrs/week on the new job, and I spent my early morning hours getting treated. Because of my experience at the school, I told no one at my new job about my bc or the radiation treatments; I made my own accommodation and it was tough. I napped in the ladies room on another floor during lunch to overcome the exhaustion. So, I got through it with them none the wiser. Since then, this same employer has been most accommodating when I had to be out twice for knee replacement surgery. But, I still think they would have dropped me like a hot potato if I had asked for bc accommodation at the outset. Once bitten, twice shy.

  84. Nessun*

    I have an informal accommodation due to (undiagnosed) trauma-related PTSD. I haven’t sought treatment specifically, but I have major issues with leaving my back unprotected, due to an assault from about 20 years ago now. Normally it’s no big deal at all – I know where I prefer to sit in the cafeteria, I’m fine if I’m moving around (walking, etc.), but I need to have my back to a wall. I can’t have anyone come up behind me, and if I’m sitting with my back to any kind of open space, I lose concentration, become stressed, and can have panic attacks if I can’t move to a safer space. We have an open-concept office, and the desks are arranged haphazardly all over the place, which means lots of the desks are not against a wall – they’re backing onto shared spaces or opposite other desks – and we move seating assignment every year (to encourage collaboration with our new neighbors – don’t get me started).

    Last year I made a request before the seating arrangement was created, and got ignored. I solved the problem by switching desks myself (we’re not strictly supposed to do that, but no one called me on it, and I was open about doing it). After I switched, I spoke to the HR Director just to ask what my recourse would have been otherwise, since I’m not officially diagnosed. She said to just let the Office Manager know I’d spoken to her. I did, and that OM has since left. This year, I went to the OM proactively and told her what I needed – she made a note, and also noted that I’d spoken to HR.

    Now I’m waiting to see where they’ll assign us for this year (starting next month), and hoping things were taken care of. If not, I will go back to HR, and ask them to loop the OM back in for a discussion. I was happy about how supporting the HR Director was, but I don’t hold out as much hope for an enlightened OM. (To be clear, they’re not malicious, just forgetful and rather uninterested.)

  85. Me--Blargh!*

    If you can’t do the job even with accommodation, employers legally don’t have to hire you, and they can let you go for the same reason.

    I requested them when my administrative assistant job changed after my old boss retired. My new manager was consistently vague about what I’d be doing, old job duties started migrating out, and new ones unrelated to anything I’d previously done came in. I hadn’t disclosed a learning disability prior to the change, either; I only told my previous manager I had a tough time with math.

    My performance suffered during the transition and it wasn’t until a PIP meeting with HR that my new boss told me I’d have to be very proficient in Excel, without telling me why or what the tasks would be. At that point, feeling backed into a corner, I disclosed and asked for accommodation.

    The company’s idea of that was to force me to take Microsoft’s online Excel training. I tried to explain that I knew how to use the program, and that the difficulty was task-specific, but I still couldn’t get any idea of what we were doing from my boss. I took it anyway, and of course when I got to the units with complex formulas, it tanked.

    After a couple of weeks of very frustrating meetings with a company trainer, with whom my boss also refused to share her task, my boss sat down with me and her giant spreadsheet. She watched me struggle in real time.

    All the other stuff I was doing had been going okay. However, there was no way I could handle her budget sheet. I had completed the PIP, but since I could not do the new job even with accommodation (such as it was), and the stress and anxiety had affected my behavior, I was fired. That last part is on me, and I’ve taken steps since to deal with it, but the whole thing was really quite shitty.

    Now I’m back to where I started, trying to find a job that I can actually do that pays a decent wage. I’m beginning to feel like I will never work again.

    1. Chronic Overthinker*

      I guess the bright side is you know how to answer the “what’s your greatest weakness” question in interviews.

      I wish you luck in your job search.

      1. Me--Blargh!*

        Thanks. Yeah, unfortunately, I can’t disclose in interviews because 1) it kicks off discrimination, and 2) because I’m verbally articulate and write well, they think I’m faking to get out of certain tasks. Nobody has ever heard of this LD (dyscalculia) and I am tired unto death of constantly explaining it to people who obviously don’t think it exists.

        Unfortunately, the tasks that are difficult for me are very common in higher-level admin jobs and also an essential part of them (budgeting, creating Excel sheets with number data, expense reconciliation, etc.). So I’m locked out of EA positions, which I don’t want to do anyway. I’m sick of admin work.

    2. Chronic Overthinker*

      I forgot to mention, depending on your state you should check with your Department of Workforce Development to help with finding a job and helping with accommodations while you are unemployed. They can assist you in finding work and make sure that accommodations are met once you are employed.

      1. Me--Blargh!*

        That would be Vocational Rehabilitation and I have already gone that route. They have two tracks, a work track and a school track. The work one is just “get a job.” That’s it. They don’t care what it is, or how good it is. That track works as you’ve described, but it doesn’t help you get a better job, and they push you toward jobs you can get no matter how shitty they are.

        I chose the school track to avoid ending up back in this situation and then I got offered this position, and it was just too good to turn down. They have tuition assistance, but VR closed my case after I started working because the pay pushed me over their income threshold (it’s stupidly low). Even with tuition assistance, I could not continue the school program without borrowing scads of money and I already owe massive student loans.

        I do not want to go back to school again. I’m willing to take classes for the skills I lack to make a lateral move, but not another degree program. I just need an income before I can do that. And I’m moving to a larger job market, so hopefully that will help.

        1. NCKat*

          That’s really too bad. VR helped me get my first job and as my foot was in the door, I was able to progress from there.

          Is there a way you can request a change to a new VR counselor?

          1. Me--Blargh!*

            Nope. I’d have to get and stay in a very-low paid job until I finished school because of VR’s income requirements (they don’t cover any living expenses). I couldn’t do better even if I did finish school, since I wouldn’t be able to save enough money to move away.

            And they can’t help me get a job here; my last job said I was eligible for rehire, but I doubt they would have me back, and the market in this city is completely stagnant. It hasn’t grown in fifteen years. I know this for a fact thanks to my application tracking spreadsheets.

            I am selling my house and getting the heck out of Dodge. If I don’t escape now, I never will.

  86. RoadsLady*

    In a lot of elementaries, you’re “on” all day. If that’s your situation, I would look into covered breaks if needed beyond any usual ones.

  87. kate*

    I had a bad reaction to cipro (tendonitis in both ankles), and it got to the point that I couldn’t walk without a walker for weeks. My office is in a small, non-handicap accessible building at the top of a hill. I asked to telecommute (or work in a handicap accessible building) until I could walk without assistance.

    Although I came in one of the first days, I almost fell down a flight of stairs, and it scared me to no end. Ultimately when I got home, I asked my boss via google chat, and she agreed immediately. It had to go to HR to be approved with a formal telecommuting form, but everyone signed off right away. (And, bonus, I got a “get well soon” basket sent!)

    I was embarrassed to admit my situation was as dire as it was, but I wish I had just put my pride away sooner and asked.

  88. triplehiccup*

    When I was a high school teacher with chronic pain issues, I bought all my own ergo equipment (chair, keyboard, anti-fatigue mat, seat cushion, etc.) or made it (stick a box on your desk – congrats you have a standing desk!). And I was ruthless about keeping my work week as close as possible to 40 hours. I cared very deeply about my students and colleagues, but I didn’t invest my time in extra work unless it was really going to pay off.

  89. Aspie AF*

    I’ve had cause for a variety of accommodations, with varying degrees of difficulty…

    -I’ve had chronic tendonitis in my right wrist for years. I already had a wrist brace when this first came up, which was enough… I eventually transferred to a role that required a lot of typing, where I got an ergonomic assessment easily and was able to buy a keyboard/mouse combo myself and submit for reimbursement.

    The second company where this came up the pain had started to radiate through the right side of my body… They brought in an external consultant for an ergonomic assessment, but it took me a good two months to get an ergonomic mouse/keyboard after that. I also had to push for the specific set requested (MS Sculpt Combo) as the separate number pad means I can use it left-handed.

    -Years of undiagnosed autism have caused anxiety and several depressive episodes. This was a major issue with both of the above jobs…

    At job #1 I was forced to self-disclose at the risk of losing my job. Management was not understanding, and I didn’t have a formal autism diagnosis at this point – I ended up getting a reasonable severance and cut my losses.

    Job #2 was even worse. I disclosed in my interview that I have trouble blocking out sounds, which is easily rectified with headphones… They were still eager to hire me, but told me on my first day that I could not wear headphones on the job because the team collaborated and talked to each other all the time. Never mind that I just wanted to block out the constant negative self-talk on either side of me, or that if I had a hearing impairment they’d definitely have to use alternatives.

    I received a formal diagnosis just after my probationary period ended. When I started having meltdowns I was told that I would not be allowed to take sick time. They refused to accept accommodation requests without a doctor-completed form which was ill-suited for complex accommodations, still refused after I jumped through that hoop, and gaslighted (gaslit?) me frequently. I ended up on disability leave (also a form of accommodation, but not one I wanted to have to take) after a few months and started job searching before my return – when I gave them a generous notice period, they opted to pay it out, despite 1/3 of the team also being on medical leave, and gave me excuses about it being standard (the last person who left worked out their notice) and me having access to customer data (which I had right up to the day I gave notice). They did not have me sign anything, notably!

    Both companies made a big deal about inclusivity, and I know it’s much easier as a corporate buzzword than to implement, but it’s hard to feel excited about, say, neurodiverse-friendly hiring when retention doesn’t even seem to be considered.

  90. Specialist*

    I put ergonomic keyboards on all my staff’s computers. I don’t care, they are better for their hands and not really that expensive. I recommend this for all companies.

    I do a fair amount of paperwork for people with hand injuries. Some companies are great and others suck.

  91. Fran*

    I had a series of health problems that resulted in fatigue and balance problems. Even though I work for a private secondary school, if I worked in public, I would have had tenure… and our principal had worked in public previously. When I needed to move to a main floor classroom, it was handled. When I needed to cut back my course load, it was handled. In fact, I was given the opportunity to teach an online course – which has been ideal as I’ve become more disabled – has extended my career by at least an additional two years (part time). I told them what I needed, and they met that, and also volunteered ways to make it easier for me. Not all employers would be as accomodating.

  92. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    20 yrs ago when I first became disabled. unfortunately, I didn’t understand the ADA well enough and didn’t research it, so my supervisor & HR just did what they wanted and told me ‘no’ for things they had no reason to deny. Among them I asked for a modification of hours due to transit issues. I was told I was required to work a specific set of hours that none of my peers did, nor did it make sense to my work, and HR claimed “We don’t have to change your hours just because you ask.” (Wrong. They can deny it but they have to have a good reason.)

    Years later at a different job I had to make a rather humiliating request. The office had wall-mounted toilets. These are rated for no more than 200 lbs, sometimes 250, and they can snap off the wall. This isn’t just the weight of a person; a 150 lb person who swings onto a toilet from a wheelchair can generate 200+ lbs of pressure. HR rolled their eyes but my future manager pointed out that they’d already had one break off for just that reason. They make support units that go under these toilets, which were obtained & installed. (Note that the ADA now requires floor-mounted toilets in any bathroom or stall indicated for handicapped accessibility.)

    1. Aspie AF*

      I asked to be able to start 5-10 minutes late in the summer when my usual bus was cut, telling my manager that the next bus should get me to work on time but traffic, construction, etc., might delay that a bit. She agreed, and after a couple of days of being 5 minutes late and shaving 10 minutes from my lunch, I was told that this was unacceptable. This was in a non-customer-facing environment and I was on the latest shift already, so coverage at the day was the priority. Guess who never offered to work late?

    2. Observer*

      HR sounds like idiots. Fortunately, it sounds like your manager had some sense.

      As for the first job, that’s just horrible people.

  93. Lemon Zinger*

    A couple of things in my last job (salaried):

    There was a day where we had to work a huge event… from 8 AM to 11 PM. We were not guaranteed a lunch since our state did not require lunch breaks to be provided. I was taking a prescribed medication with a side effect of sleepiness. On a normal 8-hour work day, I was getting quite tired at 3 PM.

    I realized the effects of the medication three days before the event date, and went to the event organizer. I explained my medication issue and requested that I be let off early or be given an hour to sleep in my car sometime between 4-7 PM. She gave me a lot of attitude in a really condescending tone: “*Sigh* Why didn’t you tell me this sooner? I planned the staffing weeks ago. I don’t understand why you’re doing this.”

    I was pretty taken aback by this response and said “I’m sorry for the inconvenience but wow, I’m really disappointed in your reaction to my medical issue. I’ll see Cheryl in HR instead.” Then she got very cold and tight-lipped and said “No no no, it’s fine. I’ll take care of it.” And I was removed from the schedule at 5 PM. I would have liked to have attended part of the night portion of the event (if I felt up to it) but felt that I couldn’t after my interaction with the organizer.

    Another accommodation request: I had surgery of a sensitive nature and couldn’t lift anything heavier than 25 pounds for six weeks. I submitted a formal statement and the doctor’s letter to HR and was then directed to a woman in my office who was the designated ADA representative (I had not known this). I felt kind of uncomfortable about this– she was very gossipy and tight with the director. I explicitly asked that she keep it confidential and got her emailed response in the affirmative, and nobody found out that I’d had surgery at all.

    1. Allypopx*

      Wow. I’m sorry the event organizer responded like that but good for you for calling her out in the moment.

    2. Observer*

      The event organizer’s response is unimpressive, to say the least. But it sounds to me like HR must be doing their job. That’s why EO didn’t want you to go the HR. Also, I’m betting that that’s why the gossipy ADA person didn’t gossip about you.

  94. Nancy*

    I had been advocating for remote working for a long time with my employer. It had been previously allowed, but with a change in leadership (and implementation of cultural changes) it was disallowed. Our office started a pilot program permitting certain admin positions to remote work, but people in my professional category (attorneys) were still not included (for reasons that I agree are legitimate, mainly because our physical presence at meetings and in court can be required at short notice). Then my house got struck by lightning and caught fire in July! Our family had a lot of adjusting and reacting to do, and my boss immediately asked how the office could support me – I told her nothing would alleviate more stress than allowing me to work from home, so I didn’t have to worry about replacing my work wardrobe right away and could spend time normalizing our situation for my kids instead of commuting. She didn’t think about it, she immediately approved and asked my immediate supervisor and I to iron out a plan! I currently work from home twice per week, and we are in an apartment around the corner from my house so I am able to pop in on the workers and take appointments without disrupting my work day. I am taking this an as opportunity to prove that this is doable and hopefully even after our house is livable, this can be a continuing opportunity at my workplace.

    1. MaureenSmith*

      Side note re: construction. Being able to pop in to site frequently, answer questions & make sure no (major) mistakes are made is PRICELESS. I too went through a major fire/rebuild challenge. Being able to correct walls in the wrong place, missing toilet, etc saved my sanity (and the contractor money in fixes).

  95. Lilith*

    My sister’s university president finally realized how difficult it was to maneuver her campus after he had to use crutches following surgery. The campus *finally* got better with curb cuts, ramps, etc. Granted, this was back in the 90s, but, jeesch!

    1. Observer*

      It reminds me of a story I heard (from one of the people involved). The college, pre-ADA, he was in had no elevators or ramps to get to the upper floors. And although the students agitated for it, the school had umpteen reasons why it was not practical. This was a school affiliated with a particular religious denomination, but apparently school leadership wasn’t all the knowledgeable about the local denominational hierarchy. In any case, someone arranged for the local Bishop (or Arch Bishop – I don’t recall, but it was a fairly high rank) to visit the campus. Of course school leadership was all over themselves to make the visit happen and to make the school look good. Then the guy showed up – in a wheelchair.

      The first physical accessibility accommodations were in place in 6 weeks.

  96. Former call centre worker*

    My ‘accommodation’ is unscheduled working at home on some days. Thankfully in this role it’s not an accommodation as I didn’t need to ask for it. During my induction my department manager told me that we’re free to work from home whenever and just to put it in our calendars so colleagues can see where we are. It works fine and I don’t know why more places where the work can be done from home don’t allow this amount of flexibility with working from home (maybe they’re worried that the people with performance issues who they aren’t managing properly will slack off?).

    1. Earthwalker*

      Exactly. Where managers judge employees by butt-in-seat hours because they’re not good at assessing results, invisible employees are hard to manage. Our manager had a number of stories of people who abused the privilege that he would use to illustrate his policy of why we couldn’t have it. Occasionally he would allow “work from home” if someone had put in an above-and-beyond number of hours in the office, but it was more like comp time. He made it clear that he didn’t expect them to actually work.

  97. AL*

    I’m doing a phd but its essentially like a job. When I came back from a break after having a baby I asked for a fridge in our first aid room so I could store breastmilk. It was granted without fuss and in place when I got back.

  98. Theophania*

    I have intermittent FMLA leave, which has been helpful. One thing to watch out for is that sometimes doctor appointments aren’t paid while illnesses are. So if you have a lot of doctor appointments, you may end up losing money, even if you’re salaried (I am salaried). And I’d recommend keeping an eagle eye on your company’s policies around what happens when you exhaust FMLA at 12 weeks and make sure that your time card reflects that. The third party company that handles my company’s short term disability benefits fucked up my time card last year and I had to pay back $3,500 over five months.

    My company does ergonomic evaluations as a matter of course and it’s not a big deal to get a special chair or other office set up–all of our desks are sit/stand. I do tend to buy my own keyboard and mouse because I’m picky about which ones I’ll use. And everyone who works in the office environment has the flexibility to work from home and to work flexible hours (within reason). Folks who work in the labs or manufacturing facilities don’t have that option but we do a lot of capital investment around ergonomic issues in those spaces.

    I am also lucky to have extremely supportive management who understands that I’m still in recovery from my catastrophic illness last year and that there are days when I’m going to be less on top of things than I’d like.

  99. hayling*

    This is very timely for me as I am going to start a new job soon and just requested accommodations there! I have a chronic neck injury.

    I currently work for a high-growth tech company, when I started we were about 200 employees. We had HR but it wasn’t super bureaucratic. I emailed my new boss “I’m really excited to start at $Company at the end of the month! I have a chronic injury that requires some workstation adjustments. Chiefly, I need a chair that provides the correct support for my spine, and an adjustable monitor stand. What is the process for assessing my workstation needs at $Company?”

    Boss put me in touch with office manager, and I linked him to the very expensive chair I need. He pushed back a tiny bit and asked if there was a chair from their standard supplier that would work. I replied and said that this chair is the only one I have found that would meet the recommendation of my PT, and bulleted out the requirements. He said no problem and ordered it! And when I started on my first day my monitor had a “z” arm which is easily adjustable.

    Once I had been there for a while, I started a PT stretching routine that I needed to do mid-day. At that point, we had no HR head, so our head of Finance was acting HR. I asked if I could have access to the Mothers Room. I got some pushback but I calmly used ADA language about reasonable accommodation and I think he did a little bit of research and then gave me the go-ahead. It didn’t come to this, but I did alert my manager in case I needed her ammo.

    Incidentally, $Newjob has a stretching room!

  100. rain rain go away*

    I’m really glad here to read success stories. In my case, I asked for an accommodation, filled out some pretty humiliating paperwork, chased down a response for months, and got denied with no explanation even when I tried to follow up from that. I spent a lot of time crying. I’m so so so glad to hear it’s different in other places.

    1. Observer*

      If you are in the US, they can’t do that. They HAVE to discuss this with you. It’s called an “interactive process” and they have to discuss this with you to see what you and they can come up with.

      If you have HR, please try using this formal language with them IN WRITING.

      1. rain rain go away*

        Not to ask you for homework, but do you have chapter and verse I can quote them on that? Like, referencing a law or whatever?

        In my case, I filled out all the paperwork, including the specific accommodation I was requesting, how that wouldn’t have any negative influence on anything, and then they were just like “lol nope” and my boss has cornered me multiple times to explain earnestly to me how lucky I am to be employed.

          1. Observer*


   – State and local governments grievance procedures.
   Very simple language about recourse
   – EEOC – the gold standard
   – This is an employer side site.
   – these guys are mentioned a lot on this site.

  101. willow19*

    I was developing tennis elbow from a lot of database work and typing. My brother, a doctor, said to get an articulated keyboard. I just had to ask, IT ordered one for me, not an issue at all.

  102. Deloris Van Cartier*

    I’ve had to ask for schedule accommodations a few times which is always nerve racking. I have a condition which requires infusions every two weeks. Mine take about 7 hours and I’m super tired afterwords so I can’t really work that day at all. I use to go a location where I could go on weekends but they changed their hours to weekdays only. I got great advice from folks here (thanks everyone!) and went to my supervisor with some solutions. It happened to work out timing wise to switch to a Tuesday-Saturday schedule.

    When I got a new role, I kept this schedule even though someone else could cover my Saturday duties. My supervisor noticed that the day after the treatments, I feel awful so being at work can be rough and suggested I switch back to Monday-Friday and take every other Friday off for my treatments. I now work an extra hour each day but I was already doing that some days so it seems to be going OK!

    My biggest anxiety is leaving this job and asking for accommodations somewhere new. As it’s a genetic illness, I’ll always need the treatments and it can be daunting to explain to someone. It’s also pretty rare so if people look it up, it can be a lot to take in at once.

  103. DJ*

    Mine was not a good experience. When I started in my current job it wasn’t long after I’d finished cancer treatment. I asked to be able to work remotely a day a week from a location close to home either on a Friday or on another day if I had an appointment. I asked due to joint and muscle pain caused by meds and also fatigue and coming to terms with maybe I could die soon. And I was commuting 80
    Mins each way over 2 buses and a train. Was told no.
    Was also told off for “taking too
    Much sick leave” (many of my appts I attended using accrued time), they would argue with me over the defining I’d what time was considered leaving time for a “half flex” as I was dashing out the door to get to a local to home appt whilst I’d be saying “I can’t stop I Ahmed at X suburb by Y time and if I miss my train I won’t make it”. So I would be crystal clear of what time I needed to leave and why when I requested accrued time off. Anyhow when I explained my “too much sick leave” was due to additional appts to changes medications to reduce the size effect of muscle and joint pain (which worked) I was advised I should expect to have arthritis at my age (I was 50 not 100). Also my manager decided I he chemo brain and told a large number of staff this and so I had to put up with ongoing hostility plus being deskilled by being treated as the office junior.

  104. Chronic Overthinker*

    I’ve been hoh (hard of hearing) all my life. Invisible disabilities can be especially challenging as most people don’t see the need for accommodations until the issues actually arise. However, once it’s noted, accommodations are usually pretty easy. I usually ask anyone who is speaking to face me so I can read their lips or speak up/repeat themselves as necessary, or write down instructions as needed. I turned up the ringer and volumes on my phone so I can hear it more clearly. I even had work ask if I needed a bell for the door (much like your retail shops). For me I make sure I can see the front door and keep an eye on schedules so that I can see someone before they actually come in. Being the “Director of First Impressions” really comes in handy and I usually stand up to greet people. I think it shows a sign of respect and also allows me to get closer to really hear and understand what is being said.

    It does have it’s challenges though. When I am using the telephone I have a switch on my hearing aid which completely snuffs out all background noise so I only hear what is on the phone. If I have someone waiting; staff or clients, I usually just do the “just a moment please,” motion, finish the call and then assist with the in-person stuff. It can sometimes be awkward too, if someone on the phone or in person has a heavy accent or is incredibly soft-spoken. I try to be as positive as possible when asking someone to repeat themselves, sometimes up to three or more times. I usually apologize and say I am hoh and make sure to clarify or use the old military alphabet to spell things out. Overall, I have had positive experiences, even in the face of awkwardness.

    I have worked plenty of different jobs, from retail to corporate and as long you make your requests known, they are happy to accommodate, at least in my experience.

    1. Red 5*

      I didn’t even think about a lot of the tiny accomodations I end up using for my slight hearing loss, but you’re right that when things are invisible it’s often harder to get people to take them seriously. At my job now, I could definitely ask for whatever I needed and they’d probably be fine, but for the most part we’re a quiet office and I don’t do much on the phone (and people know I just don’t like the phone much and usually will come talk to me or email).

      But at a retail job I had, in their infinite wisdom they decided to switch to those idiotic earpieces and radios for the staff after I’d been there about a year. I agreed to the radio, since I was in the stock room most of the time, but refused to wear the earpiece. Management told me I had to, I pointed out that for one thing, if I had that thing on one ear I couldn’t hear or understand a customer in front of me which was the opposite of the point and two, straining to hear both things at the same time was giving me migraines. He told me I could bring in documentation or wear the earpiece. The job didn’t offer decent health insurance so trying to get the documentation started adding up to a hefty chunk of money for me.

      That wasn’t the reason I quit the job a month or two after that, but it certainly didn’t help.

  105. OntarioTeacher*

    I teach in a high school that’s starting to show its age and the chair in my classroom for me was un-usable. I was told to get a doctor’s note and go through disability services for a new chair… But I got denied. I asked my principal for one and they said if I can find one, bring one… So I bought a chair second hand. What else can you do, right?

  106. Ellen N.*

    I had a coworker who asked for a giant blue ball to use as his desk chair. The ball/chair included a company representative coming to the office multiple times to give the employee instruction in how to use it correctly.

    Whenever the employee wasn’t sitting on the ball it rolled down the hallway.

    The employee soon realized that the ball wasn’t relieving his back pain. He requested and received an office chair that cost $2,000.00.

  107. Another Allison*

    The office I was working at was getting updates done to the building all of the time. One monday we walked in and all the lights had been replaced, which was nice the building was nice and bright and the customer facing area looked amazing. The down side was that these lights where so bright that they started giving me killer migraines, after trying to deal with it for a couple of weeks I decided to speak up and let my manager know that the lights in my office where so bright and that it was giving me migraines. He said ok we will see what we can do, the next day the lights in my office where replaces for softer light ones, it was so simple but it really made a difference and the migraines where gone!

  108. Vaguely Anon*

    If you are in the US and a request for a reasonable accommodation is declined, contact your state’s Protection and Advocacy agency. Each state is required to have one and they can provide legal guidance/services if your rights are being violated.

  109. A is for anon*

    I managed a team member who uses a wheelchair. We worked on a high floor in a city where we’ve experienced human and weather disasters that have meant evacuations. I emailed HR about getting an evacuation chair in case of emergency and sent a link to one option that would cost around $2K. Crickets. Twice a year When we had our mandated fire drills, I would again send an email. No response.

    The stupidity was overwhelming. We work for a government agency and she could just take the chair to the next assignment. The other option would be to corral enough people to take her down in a regular chair in an emergency. Her electric chair was too heavy to carry 20 flights down.

  110. roger that*

    I received radiation for breast cancer in a different city, about a 60-90 minute drive away, depending on traffic. I received permission to work remotely for six weeks so that I could stay at my friend’s house in the other city and not have to commute to the office every day. I would come into the office on Fridays after my radiation appointment in the morning so that I got some face time with coworkers once a week. They were great about it; when I had computer issues at one point, the IT guy offered to drive a new laptop to me right away the same day, and my manager tried to insist that I take him up on the offer (I decided to come back into the office myself because I felt bad making him drive). They were pretty amazing!

  111. Poppy the Flower*

    When I was in high school I worked as a library page. Our main duty was to reshelve books. I am very petite and don’t have a lot of upper body strength (and also can’t do weight bearing exercise, due to another medical condition, to improve that). I was hired by a manager whom I’d known most of my childhood and had an unofficial accommodation that if a cart of books was too heavy for me I could load up what I could onto another cart and make multiple trips. She left, new manager decided we had a cart shortage and this wasn’t allowed. Instead I was supposed to ask someone to push the cart for me. No matter how I talked to her about this (including using specific language like “reasonable accommodation” and “disability”) she wouldn’t budge. All I needed was one reserved cart and I could do my job independently. Anyway, I ended up using the malicious compliance strategy. I was never told I had to ask another page so I would always ask one of the librarians (the older/more established the better) or my boss to push the cart out. Eventually she caved because it was interrupting everyone’s workflow and let me go back to the original system of loading up my own cart with what I could push on my own. I had a family friend who was a lawyer so actually was considering getting legal help if my boss didn’t change her stance. But I would endorse this strategy if you can. Make it so annoying that the path of least resistance is to accommodate you.

    1. Anono-me*

      Brilliant. (And especially considering that in high school most people are just starting to figure out that direct confrontation and leaving the situation are not the only two ways to resolve something.)

      1. Poppy the Flower*

        I did have some good adult advice! But I also got some sick satisfaction in watching it play out ;)

  112. Pink Geek*

    I have desk-job releated back pain and at my old job when I requested a kneeling chair my manager walked over to facilities and carried one back the same day I asked.

    When I changed jobs I requested one at the new office. We have sit/stand desks by default and some pretty nice chairs that just don’t suit me. They hired someone to come in and do an ergonomic assements. Their expert did not belive a kneeling chair was necissary so my request was denied.

    After 3 weeks I was in serious pain and bought my own.

  113. sub rosa for this*

    I saw this topic go up earlier, and my heart just sank. I keep clicking in to read the entries but my stomach tightens up and I just can’t make myself read. Too many bad experiences.

    I will tell you that, at ToxicExJob, the day that I requested an accommodation, not only did I get lied to and reduced to tears by the head of HR, but I immediately went from a rising star (with 2 promotions and 3 raises in my first 20 months) to a troublemaker who had to be watched and micromanaged constantly. I was told by a supervisor (he was wearing ripped jeans and dirty Chucks at the time) that I had to get re-certified by my doctor every six months to be allowed to wear tennis shoes, and that I would be fired if I didn’t adhere to the dress code and stop wearing jeans.

    It has taken me about four hours to work up the courage to click down here and type this out. I keep telling myself, girl, you don’t want to distress or discourage the other posters, but… it’s been eating at me.

  114. Red 5*

    I’m still kind of in the middle of an accommodation process for back and shoulder problems. At first I just asked my supervisor if I could order a new mouse from the general supply budget but after he agreed so readily I asked if it would be that hard to get a new chair too, which led us to checking in with HR. Turns out my company has specific budget set aside for filling reasonable accommodation requests.

    There was a bit more paperwork than I expected, and I had to get things filled out by my doctor who really didn’t hold up most of their end of things, but it worked out in the end. So that’s probably my biggest thing, make sure you also ask your doctor what the process is to get them to fill out the forms (if you have to make a specific appointment, fax it, whatever).

    I thought they’d just give me some standard “here’s what we buy for people with this problem” stuff, but they actually let me pick it all out myself and I even put on a few things that were “this would be nice but I get it if I’m asking too much” and they just said “sure, that sounds good.” I’m still waiting for the last few things to come in, but I basically have an entirely new workstation and it’s fantastic.

    So basically, for the most part it doesn’t hurt to ask. And ask for what you truly need to make your day better, don’t hedge your bets and lowball your offer. While it probably helped that I didn’t ask for the most expensive chairs and desks that I saw, I also didn’t cheap out and say “oh, I’m sure this $50 chair will do…”

    1. Eva*

      As a follow-on to a post from last week, I have a sleep disorder (the diagnosis has changed as I’ve changed specialists so to be honest these days I don’t know if I should say if I have narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnia). Before my diagnosis and treatment, I basically would crash and burn at every job I tried after about a year. It was really depressing and demoralizing. At one point I ended up just applying for nothing but random retail jobs (which I couldn’t usually get because of being overqualified) because I figured at least I was burning less professional bridges that way.

      I had only been at my current part time job a few months when the IH diagnosis happened, and the doctor tried to put me on some sleep restriction/CBT techniques that basically made me even more exhausted and made everything more difficult, so it was the first time I’d ever really admitted my sleep problems to an employer at all. They were wonderful about it, asking if there was anything they could do, did I need to take some extra time off, etc. Even now that I’ve got a medication that’s got things under control, they know that I have the hours/schedule that I do because I just stop being productive at a certain point in the afternoon and that it’s not worth any of our time for me to keep trying.

      A few months ago I was having a bad time where even the meds weren’t helping and even if it felt like a backwards compliment, one of my coworkers took one look at me and told my boss to tell me to go home for the day and not come back the next day either. She said “of course, if you’re not feeling well you shouldn’t be here.” It was really great to have somebody that understood how much I needed to go home even if I wasn’t stereotypically “sick.”

  115. Anon with ADHD*

    From my experience: do NOT disclose your diagnosis. At my last company, when I vaguely talked about “health issues”, my manager was very supportive with informal accommodations. But when I disclosed my actual diagnosis (ADHD), she suddenly wanted to start a formal ADA process. I realized in hindsight that she was putting together a paper trail to fire me.

    I think disclosing the diagnosis backfired because they doubted the diagnosis, and were skeptical that accommodations would help. My grand boss asked questions like “if you have these symptoms, how did you graduate from college?”

    Don’t disclose symptoms either – that’s often enough to infer (correctly or incorrectly…) what the diagnosis is. Just keep the focus on the accommodations you need.

    1. Anon with ADHD*

      Hit submit too early.

      At my current job, I haven’t disclosed my diagnosis or symptoms at all, and it’s been going well! All my manager knows is that 1. I need to work from home sometimes (I have IBS as well as ADHD, but they don’t need to know that), and 2. I like having a desk in a quieter spot.

      I haven’t needed to ask for anything else because the job itself is a better fit.

    2. Red 5*

      I don’t disagree, but I would point out that for my accomodations I actually had to submit a form that my doctor had filled out and the first question was “what is the diagnosis and is it permanent or temporary.”

      But I work for a government agency, so hard to say how typical that is.

      (Also, your ex-boss is awful. How did you graduate from college? People with ADHD graduate from college all the time. Coping strategies and accommodations aren’t unknowable magic. Heck, hundreds of women are out there in the world right now who have ADHD and were never diagnosed but they’ve managed even though they should have had help).

  116. CJM*

    I’m super sensitive to noise and about lost my mind when we moved from cubes (bad enough) to an open-office plan. My boss knew from my grousing in team meetings how much I hated it. In one of our rare one-on-one meetings, we talked about it (not sure who brought it up — probably him). He wanted me to feel more comfortable and said he couldn’t order me good headphones through the company, but he’d quietly comp me a day off if I bought some myself. The new headphones did help, but not enough. Next he let me work from home about once a week, even though working from home wasn’t really a thing. When I was at work, he encouraged me to take my laptop to a quiet corner (e.g., an unused conference room) when the noise overwhelmed me.

    It took me time to get comfortable with that plan and execute it, but it helped enormously when I did. It really bothered me to stand out as apparently the only employee who struggled in the new environment. In hindsight, why did I care so much what others thought? I wish I’d taken those steps — looked out for myself– sooner. In the end I retired early, to my boss’s dismay. It had long been my goal, and my misery in the open office accelerated my plans.

    Reading over what I wrote, I appreciate my boss. He stunk in one important area: getting rid of a slacker, problem employee. But he was great about helping me with this issue.

  117. Peter B*

    I can talk about this from both ends; my role is as one who approves employee accommodations across my large higher education institution. I also happen to have a disability myself.

    The upshot is that you can basically ask for anything “reasonable.” Your employer must engage in an interactive process with you to determine what accommodations might work for your specific job and the organization. So, not everything would be approved, especially if your employer can demonstrate that a specific accommodation is an undue burden. But that is a fairly high bar to meet, especially for larger organizations.

    Examples of accommodations that I’ve requested and received in the past:
    • An assistant when I need to travel to conferences or trainings. The university pays a daily fixed amount, as well as covers travel and lodging and such.
    • A part-time employee assistant to help do some of the work that my disability makes difficult or impossible.
    • The purchase of specialized software that would allow me to do required parts of my job.
    • Modifications to travel policy requiring keeping and tracking individual meal receipts when traveling for business, allowing a per diem instead.

    Good employers will have a process for handling this, some might even have dedicated teams who do this work (although this is most common in government and higher education, many larger companies also have dedicated teams now.)

  118. I took advantage of entitlements - woops!*

    I asked for an accommodation to move my start time from 8 to 9 am because of a medication I was taking (disability known to employer and FMLA was involved). Needless to say, this really compromised my standing at the company and basically caused everyone who was coming in at 8 to throw a fit. My boss tried to push me out by withholding me from important meetings, giving me projects last minute or the shit projects, and most importantly scheduled a recurring status meeting with the whole team at 8:30 – after the approval process was complete and in writing from HR!! I made a complaint to HR and an investigation was held and he was no longer supervisor. Because I was now a sore spot in the companies eyes, I ended up getting pushed out and took a new job which is much better and I work from home so it doesn’t matter. Previous company had an immensely solid legal and HR team – AKA, make employee leave and then do gobs of training to CYA, with no aspect of employee respect. Needless to say, happy I left.

  119. david*

    I asked to not have my flex time taken away as an accommodation for a well-documented, lifelong, incredibly severe neurological disorder.

    They fired me.

    So, there’s that.

  120. J.*

    I’ve had good experiences and bad ones that varied mostly based on how much training and experience as a manager the person had. In one particular instance where the director pressed me for details of my condition then denied me the accommodation anyway and I ended up throwing up in my car at the end of my shift, it really highlighted the inadequate way the organization prepared people in those low level management roles. So if your principal is new, definitely go in prepared to push back with information about your rights in the workplace.

    Do you have a union? It may be worth talking to them about it – they may have tips for how to be successful in your specific district/school, and you should be able to bring your steward with you for a conversation if you need support.

  121. Teach*

    Accommodations for teachers can be tough, just due to the job duties. What grade level you teach might make a difference.
    A few ideas:
    Classroom closest to restrooms and copy room to reduce walking
    Assigned a student aide (or high school student intern) to run errands, make copies, run for the phone, etc.
    Classroom furniture that allows for teacher chair/stools placed in several spots around the room.
    Microphone system to amplify your voice (I swear, projecting makes me tired.)
    Wireless projection system so you don’t have to keep walking to a certain place to show the next slide or whatever.
    For elementary, can they assign a paraprofessional to do all “walking the class to specials” duties?
    If your district has a co-teaching model, I’d ask to work with a co-teacher specialist who would enjoy true co-teaching (not one teach/one assist) as having another adult in the room is great for handing off. I.e. one can walk around and help kids, and one can sit at a table and teach small group.
    At secondary, can you trade out some core sections to supervise online classes or credit recovery? Less prep, quieter environment.
    Not being on the “cover a class” list to preserve planning time seems reasonable for fatigue. I know a teacher whose accommodation involved a recliner in an unused office and a planning period mid-day. She rested or graded papers in there with the door locked.
    Most teachers I know who have chronic health stuff have moved into roles that are more intellectual/less physical: online teaching, instructional coaching, specialist roles, curriculum design, etc. and that allow for a little flexibility in the day. I.e. on a bad flare day, close the office door and catch up on paperwork.

  122. Siege*

    At my company, individual managers and team leads (who supervise use day to day) cannot or will not make accomadations. You have to take a letter from your doctor to the company health clinic and they decide what your accomadations can be from there. If you can’t work in that particular department (service/tourism based industry), they move you to another one. I haven’t gone through this process because a) it is… A lot and b) my manager has warned me about “restricting myself out of a job”. So. Not great.

  123. Tammy*

    One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that my ADHD brain focuses better, especially in meetings, when I can take notes with a pen. There’s something about handwriting that slows my brain down just enough to help me focus. So I have a lot of pen-and-paper systems (hello, Bullet Journal! Hi, nice fountain pen!) and they really help. But I also often have to share my notes with other people, which is challenging. Retyping them (and scanning diagrams and the like) is super inefficient, and taking pictures of my BuJo doesn’t work well because my handwriting is semi-legible to other people on a good day.

    So, I decided I wanted to ask my company to replace my laptop with one that has a touch screen and a stylus, so I can take notes on the screen when I expect to have to share them. I was all set with all kinds of business case and justification and cost analysis info, but the actual conversation went like this:

    HR: Here’s a copy of your job description. Please work with your doctor to have her write a letter explaining which of your job duties are impacted by your disability and how the requested accommodation would address them. You don’t need to include anything about what your actual diagnosis is in the letter; we’re only concerned with the impacts on your work.

    Doctor: You know yourself better than me, so draft a letter that says what you think you need to say, and I’ll edit, print on letterhead, and sign it.

    HR:That’s perfect, thanks! Request for accommodation approved. Stand by…

    IT:Here are links to three possible options that are available from our preferred hardware vendor. Which one would work for you?

    Me:This one or this one.

    Two weeks pass

    IT:We have your touch screen laptop and stylus in stock. Please bring your old laptop over to the IT Service Desk at your earliest convenience and we’ll swap hardware with you.

    It was a super smooth experience, I’m much more effective in my work, and I’m glad I did it. And when it comes time to upgrade/replace this laptop, HR tells me the fact that I have a permanent accommodation need is documented and we won’t have to go through that process again.

  124. You Win Some You Lose Some*

    It has depended entirely on my workplace.
    At my government jobs the accommodation requests have either been taken at face value and followed through or they have been documented and followed through.
    At private companies my accommodation requests were either ignored or I was asked for information that they weren’t legally entitled to and attempts were made to make me feel like a bad employee for being unwilling to disclose all the information they wanted. In one place in particular, I know that they played similar mind games with another person who also had invisible disabilities whom was at a similar level to me but not with an employee who had a visible disability and whom was higher up.

  125. Clementine*

    Here is what happened to me at ex-job. Asked for 2 very reasonable accommodations- heating pad to help with joint pain and to be able to complete a daily treatment that took multiple hours, but did not require special equipment or impede my ability to do my job. I was told the heating pad was a fire hazard and that my treatment made other people uncomfortable- both denied. I ended up getting worse because of lack of accommodation that would have allowed me to continue my treatment and ended up on short term disability. I was then fired because being out of the office on short term was an “undue burden”. They wanted to use the parts of the ADA that benefited them, but ignore the ones that would have helped me complete my job. My attorney took the case on a contingency basis- no upfront costs to me.

  126. Cleettuss*

    About a year ago, armed with a letter from my physician outlining his recommendations. I requested intermittent and as-needed reasonable accommodations from my employer for a mental health issue. These were things like being able to take a full hour for lunch (when work demands allowed it), taking 5 – 10 minute breaks in my office as needed to meditate or refocus, the ability to come in later than usual when I needed more rest (I generally work 60 – 70 hours a week and start at 7am), and permission to occasionally work from home.

    My work is such that I keep my own schedule, am offsite often, operate fairly independently of my boss, and no one really knows what I’m doing or where I am at any specific moment. As long as what needs to be done gets done, there is no one checking up on me other than monthly meetings and reporting. In practice, I had already independently put all of these things into place, and no one had noticed. I was simply trying to formalize things and be transparent with my boss.

    A week after I spoke with our HR person, who took it all in stride, I was called into a meeting with our HR, CEO, and COO. I was grilled for 2 hours about my condition, about how each accommodation might help, about how exactly each would work in practice, how would these affect my numbers…you get the idea. The CEO said that she needed to think about if accommodations would work for my role or if we needed to restructure things. Again, I had been doing all of these things for about 3 months with no one noticing and no drop in productivity.

    Two days later – the day before Thanksgiving – I was called to a meeting with our COO and laid-off because “my billings weren’t high enough to cover [my] salary”. To be clear, my numbers were fine right up until I asked for accommodation, and my billings were based on contractual monthly lump-sums with the Federal Government. There was nothing I could do to raise or lower them. Fortunately, I had a feeling this was going to be the outcome and had already been interviewing. I had a new job in less than a week.

    Old company had me sign a waiver of rights in order to collect any severance. I did later consult an attorney who said I had an excellent case, but I missed the window to rescind the waiver by a day.

    In hindsight, I wouldn’t have asked for accommodations I already had, or that I could gain without making a formal request. I did understand my company’s culture – and CEO’s attitude – and realized I was taking a risk, but I convinced myself that ultimately they would do the right thing. I know now not to sign anything under duress and to always consult an attorney. I should have consulted one before I made my request, not after the fact. It would have made me much more prepared to handle the eventual fallout and to protect my rights.

  127. thurley*

    Here is my accomodation story. Not a good one, though my job was never in danger.
    I have had some permanent orthopedic issues which qualified me for a vocational rehabilitation scholarship for my four years in college. After earning my master’s in library science in 1990, I was hired by the public library where I still work. Over the years, my disabilities (not very fixable medically) have taken their toll and piled other disabilities on. Because I have a brother with severe learning disabilities and training in education of students with disabilities, I am very familiar with ADA law. I am also a leader in my union local.

    Over the last few years, I developed severe thumb arthritis and an associated carpal tunnel syndrome in one hand. My hand surgeon gave me a sheet with information on the ideal arm position I needed for my desk work. I work at two stations. One station was fine; the other (our reference desk) was very much not. I promptly went to our HR director (who is also an attorney). He reviewed the modifications with me and determined that they were reasonable (a chair which could be raised to the height of the desk; the removal of a badly placed keyboard tray). Easy peasy. I thought that the chair would arrive in a few weeks and the keyboard tray removed even faster.

    Ha. Hahahahaha. I ended up not being able to work at the reference desk for more than eight months. In the meantime, I was working on a very high-profile project which required me to work with archival materials on Famous Person from Our Town on my off-desk time because I could not be scheduled to work at the reference desk. I was a regular Thursday visitor to the HR director’s office. He was flummoxed; I was irate. The order had come from him because he knew ADA law, which my overwhelmed direct manager didn’t. Meanwhile, I was told by upper management that I would be working more with archives, including for now-dead Very Famous Person. Things finally got moving once my union stewards brought up the issue in a meeting with the assistant director and the facilities manager (AKA the guy who orders equipment). Our famously hands-off director, who loves my work with Very Famous Person, was even finally informed (not by me). The chair finally arrived the first week of October; the keyboard modification happened a few days later. HR director and I cracked black jokes about my “real” needs for a chair with rich Corinthian leather and artisinally-grown lambswool filling. In reality, this was beyond ridiculous. Contract talks are soon; the treatment of me and others who need modifications will very much be a Topic.

  128. ForkMath*

    I think it depends a lot on the school and district. I am in a place with typically strong unions so with proper documentation most things go through. We also have a lot of informal accomodations within the building (working out scheduling, coverage, etc). For minor or furniture accomodations we usually just pay for it ourselves or convince our principal to pay for it out of the building budget (it’s not uncommon to buy your own chair, laser pointer, USB stick, wirelesss mouse, etc, so this isn’t weird to us)

  129. Marley*

    I requested a quiet space to work due to distractions and flexible time for doctor’s appointments. One accommodation they provided before I even gave proof of disability! They simply asked for my doctor to fill out a form about the accommodations needed and her assessment of my disability (ADHD btw). I am also bipolar 2 but my current doctor has not formally diagnosed me as so (my previous one did, though) so the appointment flexibility are really for therapy for my bipolar, tbh.

  130. Annie*

    Working as an educator may make it challenging. For starters, please go to and look up your medical condition(s). It’s a US government-financed website for accommodations. It lists the most frequent helpful accommodations for various medical conditions. You choose the ones that will address the symptoms you have, and then figure out how to manage it within your office environment WITH your managers.

    However, managers and offices have the right to deny an accommodation if the accommodation will prevent you from doing your job. And it sounds like it may happen for you. If that’s the case, can you take Short-Term disability, or FMLA?

    Good luck.

  131. Ryan*

    I have had mental health issues for years, and I’ve always proactively sought help, especially during times when things aren’t going well. While I disclosed to HR my needs and they were always accommodating, no one documented anything. I requested things like the ability to go to a support group during my lunch break (thus having a longer lunch than normal) and leave early once a week to accommodate a therapy appointment. So when the leadership, HR, and my supervisor all changed a few years later and I continued as I’d been doing, all hell broke loose. And my “alternative schedule” was used as part of the justification for my firing. I sincerely wish folks had documented the agreement because it became a “he-said-she-said”.

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