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» LymeNet Flash » Questions and Discussion » General Support » Afraid I'm about to be fired -- any advice?

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Author Topic: Afraid I'm about to be fired -- any advice?
LaniMo
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Hi all:

I got ambushed by three supervisors at work today. It appears that they are laying the groundwork to fire me and have set impossible new rules for me to follow.

They essentially implied that I am intentionally taking time off around holidays and weekends (presumably so that I can go on wild party vacations?). They said they want to make sure I'm not abusing the system.

Now I am required to furnish doctors' notes every time I am absent or have a doctor's appointment, and I have to get the doctor to renew the FMLA paperwork once a month now (instead of once a year)!

I am relapsing and have missed work approximately 1-1.5 times a week for a couple months now. These flare-ups were documented in FMLA by my doctor as likely occurrences that can't be predicted.

It was my impression that FMLA would protect me in a case like this, but this seems like discrimination. Do they have the right to establish new rules just for me (which don't apply to others in the organization)?

I'm feeling angry, humiliated, and defensive. And discouraged. So discouraged.

Is it time for me to seek disability? Anyone have a lawyer in the DC/Metro area they can recommend? If so, PM me.

Thanks for listening!

Posts: 113 | From Northern Virginia | Registered: Apr 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Ellen101
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So sorry you are going through this. I can't answer alot of your questions but I will tell you one of the most important things to do is document everything and keep accurate records of your appts, doctors notes etc. This will all come in handy if you need to take legal action later on.

Perhaps it would be helpful to consult a lawyer with expertise in FMLA.

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LaniMo
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Thanks, Ellen101. I'm definitely going to start keeping better records.

What frustrates me most is that I'm an *amazing* employee when I'm well. I work twice as fast as everyone else, and do a great job catching up after my absences.

I'm sure this just confuses my coworkers ("But she seemed totally fine just yesterday. She doesn't LOOK sick.").

Naturally, I tend to overdo after being sick, and that only depletes me further. Vicious cycle.

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GretaM
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I do the same thing.

I work 300 times harder to make up for the 3 days I miss each week, and it is the same thing, my coworkers don't think I'm ill.

I feel like going into work in my housecoat one day just to get the point across.

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LaniMo
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GretaM: I've stopped wearing makeup to work so that I look sicker!

What do others think about hiring a lawyer and/or applying for disability?

Posts: 113 | From Northern Virginia | Registered: Apr 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lymetoo
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Just know that disability locks you into a LOW INCOME for a long long time. As the cost of living rises, your income pretty much will not keep up. If you are young, it's even worse.

--------------------
--Lymetutu--
Opinions, not medical advice!

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Winesnob81
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Here is some info about FMLA. There are specific rules about how much time you can take within a calendar year even when it is approved by your Dr.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/family-medical-leave-virginia.html

Your organization also has to meet certain requirements for FMLA eligibility.

Get a copy of the company’s FMLA policy. If you have an union representation with your organization, talk to your rep.

I am the union rep at my job but it is in CA and the laws are slightly different in each state.

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Crawgir1
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Check out this EEOC webpage: http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm
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lymednva
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I don't know how old you are, but SSDI is not easy to get if you are young. I was already 50 when I applied, and it still took me over 18 months.

My daughter works in the office of SSDI review. She reviews cases turned down by administrative law judges, who are the last step in approval.

They are so backed up that even with the sequester she has not been furloughed and continues to work overtime regularly. I'm saying that because they could be a lot more backed up than they were when I was approved.

Tutu is right about being locked into low income. If I didn't have LTD and pensions I would not have been able to survive this long as a single person on SSDI.

All that said, I do have the name of an excellent disability attorney in your area.

--------------------
Lymednva

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Dogsandcats
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After being in HR for years, I am aware of how some supervisors relay HR information to employees - sometimes not very well.

With that said, try to rise above the ambush and handle yourself with calm and professionalism. If they are looking for a reason to fire you, especially as you described "ambush", respond to them with all the kindness you can muster.

This will help you to rise above their behavior and not help their case by being "poked" into the " not getting along employee teamwork biz".

It may not be easy, but it will help. And keep good notes, noting what they said and time. Keep good records of your time away from work, even if a long break to take a dr. call, etc

They really don't want to find themselves not honoring
FMLA or any other state laws you may have.

--------------------
God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there.

Billy Graham

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Judie
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I would:

1) Try to have a conference call with human resources and your doctor about what's to be expected, including what you're capable of and not capable of (including predicting when you are going to have a flair up of symptoms and can't work).

2) Consult a labor attorney

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terv
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Another suggestion regarding note-taking. You might want to mail a photocopy of your notes to yourself and leave the envelope unopened. This will show that you didn't make this all up at once.
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LaniMo
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Thanks to everyone for all the great advice -- keep it coming!

I alternate between feeling enraged by my company's accusations and guilt-ridden for missing so much work. Fortunately, my productivity hasn't suffered much.

I really wish I hadn't broken my no-crying-at-work policy during the ambush, but I was so shocked and humiliated that I did't even defend myself much.

I just said that I wasn't aware of the "pattern" and that I thought maybe I tended to overdo it on weekends, leading to absences on Mondays and after holidays.

Does this make me appear guilty?

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LaniMo
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DogsandCats: Our HR representative was one of the people in the room; she is the one who did all the talking.

My supervisors were basically silent, but seemed at least a little affected when I started tearing up.

I had to go in to HR the next day and clarify some of the policies, which are not written down.

I'm worried I may have come off a little defensive when I told her I thought it placed a burden on my doctors to write a note every time I'm ill (even when I don't see them that day).

I'm assuming that the less I say, the better.

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Ellen
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I only was receiving 10K per year for a family of three on SSDI. That's below the poverty line.

When my savings dried up recently, I decided to attempt PART-TIME work. Part-time still provides more income than SSDI! You may want to consider it in place of SSDI.

Alternatively, or in addition, you may want to purchase a private disability policy that doesn't exclude pre-existing conditions. The minute my SSDI ends (which it will when they find out I'm working) I plan to sign up for one of those private disability plans that doesn't exclude pre-existing conditions. Expensive, but necessary when you have Lyme.

It does indeed sound like you're being treated unfairly! If I were in your shoes, which I may be very soon (can't keep up at work)I would seek FMLA help from an attorney over SSDI help from an attorney. don't know if you can afford either. If not, most states offer free legal services to low income families.

I feel for you, and I will pray for you.

And yes, I too often hear the comment that I don't LOOK sick. For me, that's one of the hardest things about my illness: it's invisible.

--------------------
Ellen
_ _ ___________ _ _
lyme disease
dysautonomia
Chiari malformation
anxiety

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Judie
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Can you do a compromise like have your doctor write a letter once a month including all the days of illness, instead of EVERY missed day?

Maybe he can write a pre-emptive letter saying that he can predict there are times you'll need to take a couple days off per week for an indefinite period of time, but other times you will be able to work full time. It's the nature of your illness.

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LaniMo
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These are all good ideas -- thank you.

Unfortunately, I'm already working part-time (30 hours) and it's still too much for me to handle right now.

So do employment attorneys specialize in either FMLA or disability -- not both?

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LaniMo
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Hi all:

Just wanted to post an update, because things have gotten worse.

I inadvertently let my FMLA expire last week. I believe that HR, who gave me the paperwork, intentionally left off a cover page that was required.

So basically, I had the meat of the application (doctor's assessment) in place on time, but not the "notification form."

Since then, HR has been harassing me with frequent, strongly-worded emails about my FMLA usage abnormalities," and warning me that I am now subject to all standard attendance rules. There will be no prompts to get required paperwork in on time!

On top of that, my supervisors made me sign a memo at my annual review saying that my performance must improve in 30 days or I could be fired. It is merely a matter of attendance, because they admit that my work is impeccable and fast.

In fact, I sense that my supervisors actually are on my side. They made it clear that the review has nothing to do wit the memo I had to sign. I think the move to have me fired is coming from the City, not my organization.

They also are planning to have me see a City doctor to reevaluate my condition as a second opinion. I'm assuming that any non-LLMD will think chronic Lyme does not exist.

In any case, please wish me luck that I can stay well until my FMLA reapplication is approved.

Any advice and support will be greatly appreciated.

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randibear
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Supervisors can and will change requirements. My boss once took a drs. Note to our flight surgeon to see if my illness was real. Luckily for me the fs liked me and told my boss to back off.

Our requirement was a drs note for over three days but I had to submit one for every little thing including lunch hours when I tried to schedule them.

Hr told him if there is sufficient cause.

Never meet with them unless you have a representative with you cause youll be ambushed. He always sides with management period.

Document and get yourself a legal rep.

Sorry hon but theyre getting ready to can you. Better start looking for another job.

In my case two women in the office caused alot of problems and both were friends of the hr manager.

Disabity is not enough to live on and you have to be recertified yeArly. They can make you go through a medical nightmare every year too. Not worth it.

Good luck...I went through something similar but thank heavens I had 30 years and just retired.

I didnt give notice either. I didnt have to. Gave paperwork on wednesday and walked on friday.

But they held my retirement papers a whole month so I didnt get my last paycheck nor my retirement money on time either.

--------------------
do not look back when the only course is forward

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map1131
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MY SS disability is only reviewed every 3 yrs. Simple process of filling out 2 pages only with all, I mean ALL my doctor visits and that takes an extra sheet to put all the dates and dx.

All the dx are for symptoms that are caused from this illness. Only one doc my PCP lists Chronic Lyme Disease as dx. He also has a long list of other issues that keep me from going back to a career.

LaniMo, I'm so sorry you are going thru this stress. I don't know you, but my heart aches just reading your story.

My corp America career(28 yrs) was all good as long as I worked and gave them my heart, soul and body. When I walked after 2 1/2 yrs of being ill and decided to take care of ME.

This company turned on me. My last review with this company, the only negative on my review was....Pam needs to put her health before the company.

Then the a$$es turned on me because I said I'm more important than you and your numbers. They harassed me with needing a doctors note every month.

They questioned my doctor. My PCP actually called the HR mgr and asked her what in the he!! do you people want from me and my very ill patient?

My PCP told me for 2 yrs, stop, you are killing yourself. He knew my type A driven woman, that had worked hard from the age of 16 to climb the corp ladder.

I begged my PCP to find an abx that would heal me. I told him I'm up for the promotion of my life/career. I can't get promoted if I'm on sick leave.

I got my promotion and lasted 9 mths before I literally collapsed from the long hrs, 7 days a week to try to keep up. I forgot how to do things I'd been doing for years and years.

Christmas Eve '01 in the office by myself working and trying to get caught up. It was hopeless. I sat and cried like a baby....I knew the end was near.

It was. I went to rise from bed on Dec 26th to go to work and the Lord pushed me back down and I cried like a baby again. I knew it was over.

I lost the title/job of my dreams for 15 yrs (the other person that had this position retired) and I couldn't let someone else take MY job.

Even though I knew when I took it how ill I really was. I only thought I knew what my future would be.

I'm at peace with all this today. Yes, I tearing up bringing up memories. But my husband still works for that company for 37 yrs and my SS disability is pennies compared to what I was making.

But it is what it is. I've been blessed to now be a co-founder of a Lyme Support group in my city the last 2 yrs. It's exhausting but the fulfillment I get from helping others struggle and find the truth thru this madness.....

Is the ultimate calling for me. God has blessed me in so many ways since this nightmare started 14+ yrs ago.

LaniMo, don't let them beat you down. Go see their recommended doctor. But do not go without the advice of the very good people on this board that know how to talk, present medical abstract and guns (not literally) to go see this doctor.

Pam

--------------------
"Never, never, never, never, never give up" Winston Churchill

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SouthPaw
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I went through this last year. I was terminated while on FMLA as soon as I was cleared to return to work.

You need a lawyer. Find one specializing in labor law. At a minimum get a free consultation to get some advice.

You are protected by FMLA laws against retribution. This appears to be retribution. Fed gov. doesn't look kindly upon this type of behavior. Lurk through some online HR forums and you'll see for yourself that HR critters recognize the seriousness of FMLA complaints (and many outright despise FMLA laws).

If you've been cleared to return to work and haven't exceeded the 90 days of allowable leave they're required to accommodate any restrictions. Playing games with paperwork won't hold up to the smell test if you can prove they didn't provide the proper paperwork.

Document EVERYTHING. Names, dates, meetings, phone calls, print out hard copies of emails, and don't accept anything verbally. If given verbal warnings, request clarification via email. Don't leave these emails on a work computer, print them out or forward to a personal email account. Save copies of all time sheets and evaluations. EVERYTHING.

The days of HR being a "liaison" to manage benefits and HR matters is a thing of the past. HR is not there to represent you. Not all HR people are bad but don't be fooled into thinking they're there to help you (sorry to the HR people here, but times have changed).

Spend some time reading up on FMLA law. It's confusing but there's plenty of "lay men's" explanations available to get a better idea of your rights. A lawyer will be the best source but helps to understand your rights ahead of time.

Basically (to simplify) you have two options:
1) File a formal FMLA complaint. If decided in your favor they could be ordered to reinstate you, pay double your financial losses, and pay your legal fees.
2) File a lawsuit. The sky's the limit.

You have three years to file a complaint.

Individual managers can be sued for FMLA violations. If they want to make it personal.....you can too.

HR and your managers will lie, I can't stress the importance of documenting everything strongly enough.

It's not easy, I couldn't have kept all that together without my wife staying on top of it all. Physically and mentally I was a scrambled mess. Neurological effects of Lyme make this kind of fight especially difficult so it's important to stay organized.....like that's even remotely possible for most of us, right?

Don't ever lose your composure. Don't lose your temper, and do your best to not cry in front of them again. They'll use it against you as an indication of your "unstable" emotional state.

Don't burn any bridges (at least not until you have to). Recognize it might not go your way and remember you still might need to rely on them for references. I have a bit of a temper.......I wasn't able to do that. Oh well....what's done is done. I got my job back and they can all kiss my ****!

I hope it all works out for you. You have enough to worry about without this nonsense.

I'm no lawyer so just read this as a loose guide. You need to speak to an attorney who can evaluate your personal situation to find your best course of action. Good luck.

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LaniMo
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Hi all:

Thanks so much for the encouragement and kindness. Your stories break my heart.

You won't believe this new disaster that has come up at work: At my last doctor's appointment, we discussed some inconsistencies in my FMLA paperwork. The doc had based his leave recommendations on a 40-hour week, but I work part-time.

I brought in a copy of the FMLA papers and made notes on them, correcting errors and requesting that the revised form be faxed to HR.

Well, the office faxed over the FMLA paperwork with MY NOTES ON IT, and made none of the changes. I even had written on the form: "Diagnosis: Chronic Lyme disease?"

I got called into HR, and she asked me if my doctor is capable of making diagnostic decisions without my prompting. She said it looks like I'm telling him what to say.

And it does look like that to someone who's already suspicious and trying to get me fired.

I explained that the doctor and I discussed these changes in our appointment, and they were required because he misunderstood my work schedule. HR looked dubious and refused to return the paperwork to me.

I'm pretty sure any application for FMLA will be denied now. I have a call in to a lawyer who hopefully can get my FMLA reinstated. In the meantime, I have no leave and no protection.

I am a nervous wreck, just waiting for someone to bust in and fire me at any moment. They are making me miserable so I will either screw up or resign.

Obviously, I want to resign at this point. But I hate the thought of leaving "in disgrace."

Thanks again to everyone who has been following my story and chiming in with advice.

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Dogsandcats
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I am sorry Human Resources has been less than stellar. It sounds like you need to get an attorney, even if to consult and know your rights to the fullest.

Try to shrug off, in front of the, when they pick at you. Keep all the papers they give you, or copies.

If they do write you up again, or fire you, be very careful what you sign. You do not have to sign something you are uncomfortable signing.

Do the best you can, try to make it in on their so called "pattern" days. Keep any emails, etc where perceived harassment was written. Harassment is how you felt and how you perceived it.

Hang in there, we are here for you.....

--------------------
God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there.

Billy Graham

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map1131
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lanimo, you need an advocate. Someone that will help you make sure you are doing things correctly.

I made so many horrible mistakes in trying to do all the paperwork myself for LTD and in the end it cost me a judgment against me.

All because I couldn't think and do things that I had always been able to handle. I thought I was of sound mind to handle all my red tape cutting.

I wasn't mentally there and my mistakes cost me mega bucks losing my LTD. My company did give me exactly one year and then sent me a termination letter.

This letter came 4 days before Christmas. What a blow. 28 yrs with them and I was treated like a has been. No I knew they couldn't keep my job in limbo, it was given to someone else. Completely understandable.

They demoted me during my sick leave. One more low blow, just to let me know leaving them and taking care of myself was enough for them to kick me to the curb.

I called HR and talked with the mgr and she told me if my doctor would put it in writing that in 3-6 months I would be able to return to work...termination wouldn't happen.

My PCP told me the truth and said what good is it for us to write this note? Do you feel like in 3-6 more months you can return to this company and before any job they give you?

The answer was no. Why put off what in the end was the end. It was not worth the stress of adding extension on to it. I don't think you are ready to give up your fight. Don't give up unless your body/mind/spirit is ready to let it go.

Put a letter in writing explaining yourself fully on why you had made those notes on that sheet of paper. You were trying to get your physician to understand what you needed for HR and the FMLA.

Explain that you were not dxing yourself but letting him know what HR needed. Explain each detail of that paper and the discussion you had with the doctor. You keep the original and give HR a copy of necessary paperwork.

The state of Virginia has been very active in 2013 with laws about treatment and seriousness of Lyme Disease in your state. I would copy your states laws on treatment and recognition of Lyme Disease with that in writing explaination to the HR.

You really need someone on the outside of work to help you make sure you cover you bases. Is there a family member that is pretty sharp with the ability to help you?

I'm so sorry that one is so ill and you are waiting for the door to open and being fired. Would they treat a cancer patient like this? He!! no, because they know they couldn't get away with it.

A lawyer is in order in the near future. But today you need to show them you intend to cover yourself and stand up for your rights. You need help with this asap.

Pam

--------------------
"Never, never, never, never, never give up" Winston Churchill

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LaniMo
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Hi everyone. I have some new, strange developments to share.

I'd welcome any insight -- particularly from those familiar with HR.

After more than a month of harassing me and placing all those difficult restrictions on my FMLA, today most everything seems to have been reversed.

My HR rep said that City HR has decided to retroactively accept my doctor's certification as my annual FMLA reapplication, starting 1/3/2014.

All of my FMLA benefits have been reinstated, including access to the Sick Leave Bank.

When I asked her about submitting the revised FMLA paperwork from my doctor, she said that would not be necessary. Because of the incorrect paperwork that they faxed on January 6, the City would not approve this new, revised FMLA certification/reapplication anyway.

She also said that they have decided to loosen their recertification request from monthly to every six months.

All I want to know is WHY? Surely, this is a trap. Or did they realize they were behaving improperly?

I also feel uncomfortable that none of this is in writing since it was a private conversation.
HR did say that I would receive notification of my FMLA reapplication approval from the City via email, but there is no written info on the recertification change.

I don't like the fact that my FMLA on file has inconsistent estimates of the time off I'll need. My doctor said I can work 30 hours a week -- and I'm assuming they'll go by that, rather than the 2 days/week off estimate he also gave.

What is going on here???

I have calls in to several lawyers, but no one has been able to take my case yet.

Posts: 113 | From Northern Virginia | Registered: Apr 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
lax mom
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They were breaking the law in the first place and probably finally realized it.

There's such a thing as Intermittent FMLA meaning there's no way to estimate when you will be sick and your condition could wax and wane at any time.

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lax mom
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I used to work for state govt and was practically abused while utilizing FMLA.

Being told by my supervisor: "You just need to get out of bed like the rest of us. If you can't do your job, then you need to find another one"...while protected by FMLA.

I feel your pain.

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Dogsandcats
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This is from the DOL.GOV website. A phone number is listed below for questions. You should be able to request the new information in writing. That is a reasonable request!
I would want it in writing, someone's word is worthless...
.remember-if they try to make you uncomfortable about what you are asking for- information, questions etc...-don't let it get to you and stand up for you!

(Q) Who do I contact if I need additional information or I want to file a complaint?
If you have questions, or you think that your rights under the FMLA may have been violated, you can contact the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) at 1-866-487-9243. You will be directed to the WHD office nearest you for assistance. There are over 200 WHD offices throughout the country staffed with trained professionals to help you. To find the one nearest you, go to http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm.

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God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there.

Billy Graham

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map1131
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Somebody finally realized the laws that had been passed in your state of VA where enough for you to take their tx of you and your dx and screw them down.

Write down everything you were told at what time, on what date and by whom. It might have been a private conversation, but if you note it and date it. It can be used.

Keep your note taking at home. Including a daily sx log of how you feel. Write down the daily struggles you have that day, if you have any with doing your work?

Make comparison in notes on how difficult it is to do this or that compared to dates/year/month before you became ill.

Keep a daily diary for yourself. But keep it more geared towards your job tasks and any struggles you are having and why the illness is effected your work.

Lets' hope and pray you never need paperwork, but if you do....you have a diary of what life was like working with this illness.

Sorry the stress is beating you down. Hold your head up....you didn't ask for illness.

Pam

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"Never, never, never, never, never give up" Winston Churchill

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