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Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all

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  • Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all

    My story

    Six months ago I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, OCD and ADD. My difficulties with all of these have been getting worse consistently over the past couple of years. I am 22.

    I've been aware of Tourette's and the possibility that I might have it for years -- my younger brother was diagnosed as a child -- but it wasn't until recently that I ever considered it seriously. Then, it snuck into my life. At work, especially, I was having a harder time controlling my tics, and my OCD symptoms were escalating, making me anxious in the workplace. After a while, I was calling in sick, leaving early, whatever would get me out of there. It was just hard to get through a day of work -- and for no apparent reason.

    Fortunately, I've been with the company nearly since it was founded, so my employers were pretty tolerant of my sudden difficulties, even without an explanation. But since I like my job, it was time to figure out how I could still do it without any of the discomfort, distraction or panic that seemed to be popping up.

    I explained to my employers about my situation around the same time I first sought medical assistance. I explained what was happening, and that I was going to take steps to treat it. I didn't ask for anything, but when I had trouble, they were content to let me leave early as needed.

    Things continued to become more stressful, though, and eventually I couldn't stand spending a whole day at the office. The standard 9-5 day at the office didn't work for me. I spoke with my doctor, and then with my employers, and struck a new deal.

    Now, I work in the office in the mornings. At lunch, I take the fifteen minute walk home and work there for the remainder of the day. This allows me to keep in touch at work, attend meetings in the morning if needed, and then get most of my independant work done during the afternoon.

    I was very fortunate that I have understanding employers. They could easily see the value in having me work at full capacity on my own terms, rather than working slowly in an environment that doesn't suit me. They didn't even need to see the doctor's note that I had prepared for me ? they just needed to pass it on to our financial department to validate the expense of upgrading to a laptop.

    What you should know

    - Many disorders that fall into the Tourettes Plus "array of comorbidity" qualify as disabilities. Your employers, under Canadian law, are required to provide accomodations to disabled employees provided that those accomodations don't cause undue hardship to the employer. In other words, you can ask for things that will help your job -- but not things that will cost your employer an arm and a leg. I work for a sales organization that does millions in business per year, so the cost of a notebook PC was insignificant. If you're working for a small start-up, the costs of some accomodations may be higher and the company may have grounds to deny it.

    - Your employer cannot ask about your TS or other disorders. You must self-disclose if you want to be covered by disability laws. If you want to keep your TS to yourself, your employer has no right to intrude on that.

    - You can't be fired for having a disability if you've self-disclosed. In most cases, there are ways around TS, OCD and other disorders, and your employer must, if you're willing, examine those avenues first.

    - Never ask for accomodations during an interview. Whether or not you can do a job well, and whether or not you should be hired are not related to your disorders or disabilities. Forget about them for the interview process. (At least, as much as you can). In the same breath, don't apply for a job you're not certain you can do -- If your OCD symptoms make you uncomfortable with touching others, don't apply to be a masseur or masseuse, and then ask to wear rubber gloves.

    - Be confident that your request is acceptable, and a positive thing. You're more valuable to your employer if you're working at full capacity. If a change to your work schedule, enviornment, etc. can help you reach higher levels of productivity, then the reasons for the change should be obvious to both of you.

    Accomodations that fit you

    Now, I'm a Webmaster, so it's pretty easy for me to work at home. Everything I do is online, and Web-based, VPN technology allows me to share resources with the office securely. Obviously not every job can be done remotely, but there are other accomodations that may suit you.

    An important thing to remember is that if you need accomodations, you should request ones that are appropriate to your job, and will improve your working environment. Before you ask for something, be confident that it will help you, and that your employer will notice your productivity increase.

    For example, working at home, I try to stay in frequent contact with my employers via email so that they know I'm hard at work at home, and not just slacking off. Since I've been given this accomodation, my productivity has gone way up - and it shows. If, on the other hand, your employer can't see any change, then you might need to give up the accomodation, or find a way to demonstrate its usefulness to everyone. In general, spend some time reflecting on your situation, and try to find the best way to improve your workplace first.

    How to ask

    How to ask is largely up to you. It depends on your relationship with your employer.

    For me, openess and honesty worked. I didn't necessarily need to go into much detail about my situation, but one of my managers found it useful to understand TS and OCD. Another one didn't really want to know the details, only that the accomodations given to me would make me a better worker.

    On the other hand, if you have a more distant relationship with your employer, you might want to keep things formal. It might be wise to get a doctor's advice/note first, and file a request formally. That way, you're covered in the event that the request is refused, or if your employer protests in some way.


    This was a long post, and was written pretty quickly, so I apologize for any typos or sentences that don't make sense. I'm just pretty pleased with my recent accomodations, and wanted to share my experience and offer any advice I could. (I'm also not a lawyer, so if anyone wants to correct my interpretation of our rights... go ahead.)

    I'd also like to thank Cathy -- she held an excellent session at the TSFC conference in Montreal this October, which helped me get to know this concept, and gain the confidence needed to seek a better working environment.

    Has anyone else sought similar accomodations? My job is pretty easy to do remotely, but does anyone else have any more imaginative ways that they get around their tics and other symptoms in the workplace?

  • #2
    Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all

    I am glad you took the time to tell your story and provide some information for us to ponder over.

    I am sure the information provided will help those on the forum very much.


    • #3
      Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all


      Thanks for recapping how you went about getting your accommodations. I applaud you for taking action to partner with your employer to maximize your experience as well as maximize productivity for your employer.

      It is interesting that so many adults with TS are working and have not disclosed they have TS. This is not a problem if the symptoms are not interferring with performance but when the symptoms do interfer with attendance, tardiness, productivity, etc. then the employer will treat it as a performance issue, assuming you are "normal". This is just as a teacher treats a child as normal and holds them accountable to the same consequences when they are not aware of the full situation.

      For those of you reading Cailean's story, try to be pro-active if you can with your employer so that you don't find yourself in a situation where the employer taking you down the performance management road when all you need is understanding... With knowledge comes understanding.

      TSFC Homepage


      • #4
        Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all

        Hi Everbody!

        I had to tell my boss about TS when I started working there because well, he isn't blind!! My tics are pretty noticeable and when they are that obvious it's better to tell people what you ahve than to leave it to their imagination. :P I work in a store/restaurant so I'm working with the public all day. I wanted to be up front with my boss so he knew the score and how my tics may increase when I'm agitated or a little stressed out. He's fine with it. I've dropped a few dishes and things from time to time because my left shoulder sometimes flies out to the side but he's never said anything about it.

        I have a diploma in Business Admin. with a major in accounting and before this job I worked in an office as an administrator. I found the job very stressful and my tics got really really bad. That boss was not so understanding and he laid me off. I know that I could have fought it, but why would I want to go back and work where I know that the person has no respect for me.


        • #5
          Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all

          Hi Kim,

          I am sorry that your old boss was so insensitive to your TS.

          However, at your new job, your boss sounds wonderful. As long as people do the work required then they should be looked at as great employees. But some bosses look at their job as being able to control people.

          I once worked at a restaurant and the boss was so mean that if anyone did any little thing wrong, then that person would have to dress in the mascot suit all the next shift. It was this big bear costume that was probably never washed and boy did it stink!

          Needless to say, I quit the job after a few weeks!! :P Steph


          • #6
            Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all

            Hey Cailean
            I am glad I read this as my son wants to start looking for a job and wasn't sure if he should say anything. Some of his tics are a little obvious, especially his breathing tic. He never gets stressed out, though, so I don't see a problem there. We want to see how he does at the senior home that he will work at for community hours for high school. It will be his very first job as he is only 16 years old. So I have let him read your story and he says it gave him ideas. So thanks.


            • #7
              Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all

              Hi Kim

              I am glad you told your story and am sure a lot of people can relate.

              I too was layed off, but more due to my son's condition. Having to juggle problems at school, home and working higher up on the food chain just did not work out.

              Some bosses can not relate to others with family concerns since they have never had any of their own.
              Once my former boss experienced first hand the juggle act when he wife became ill it made an impact on him and he is more sensitive.

              Funny thing I still work with him now that I have my own business and he seems to appreciate me more.
              I have the flexibility I need with my son and with exception of tax season the balance is there and reasonably calm now. :lol:

              My clients know up front about my family and if they do not relate or can't cope I don't take them on. Most like my son very much and I have one that is disappointed when he is not with me when I drop by.

              Family comes first...

              Thanks for sharing your story..


              • #8
                Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all


                Family comes first
                That is really nice PJK.

                My life is centered around my son also. Steph


                • #9
                  Re: Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all

                  that is one remarkable story. Definately enlightening. Reading this also gave me hope. And a poetic thought caressed my mind after your testamony:
                  As you've embarked on that journey,your eyes were opened and the shells were lifted.Sudden flowing streams of empathy rushed in. And a new hope set in like the sun beating against the earth,in its last breath,sinking slowly away to disappear deep within the belly,leaving behind a feverent hope after a long days end. And the cool night's crisp air awakens you from your slumber. But not to despare,hope is abundant and a day will begin anew. And once again,you can bathe in its warmth.
                  This poem I just wrote reflects a mutual love that we,with T.S., may all share in. By this story you've expressed,shows me that the world may not be so cruel and that there can indeed be accomidations made. I hope that it goes the way it did for you, for us in our struggles in work and T.S.Keep the inspiration alive.


                  • #10
                    Re: Workplace accommodation: Doing your job, TS and all

                    What a beautiful poem Shawn. Please keep sharing your talent with us. Your piece was uplifting and exactly what I needed!