[Member Discussions and Questions] Workplace Advice for Non-Understanding of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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Workplace Advice for Non-Understanding of Rheumatoid Arthritis Member DiscussionApril 20, 2014

Workplace advice? A Chick wrote in:

I was wondering if any fellow chicks have advice on RA in the workplace? I am a domiciliary care worker whilst also juggling going to college. My workplace doesn’t seem to understand that my condition limits the amount of hours I can work due to fatigue etc and doesn’t seem to understand how badly the condition does affect me. Any tips or information or ways to deal with this would be greatly appreciate.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to help out this member. I hope this finds you all well. (((pain-free internet hugs)))

What our members have said so far:

Amanda -The problem occurs when people here the word ARTHRITIS. They assume it is just another type of Arthritis. There was a push at one time to have the diseases rename to Rheumatoid Disease. I really hope that happens one day, because the perception that we have just one or two bad joints is a huge issue when explaining why we are so tired and worn out. — Educate them on the actual Disease, and why it is so much worse than “just arthritis” (which isn’t fun either).

Kristen – My employer knows of my RA and they helped me get FMLA …. They had my doctor full out paperwork that states my limits on things and if I ever have to call out for my RA or any doctor appointment I am covered and they can’t penalize me …. I would ask your HR about getting the FMLA

Onnette This is a good thing to know, however keep in mind the at-will law. Where do you live?

Beth – Thanks for all your responses, I live in England so we have the disability discrimination act which supposedly protects us in the workplace.i also have chronic fatigue so basically every day is a struggle but I have to battle through to keep going to school and to keep my car on the road.i would have thought that being a care company they would have compassion for a disabled person but it seems not they still say ‘why do you have arthritis you’re too young’ I feel like tearing my hair out sometimes, and they can’t take no for an answer when it comes to working overtime.thanks again guys, I do appreciate it xxc

Virginia – My employer is 100% aware of my RA but I feel the HR Director us completely ignorant of the complexities associated with our disease. I sent a request to the Arthritis Foundation to create an employer guide to RA. I am planning in the interim to provide them literature I got from my Rheumatologist and the Arthritis Foundation in hopes they will become informed. As i understand it RA is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and as such we are entitled to reasonable accommodations.

Michelle – sadly, I did all that too and they basically threw them in the trash.. i got to the point i started my own home accounting business, but the fatigue, brain fog, pain, etc still made me undependable and unable to even work from home.. good luck.. hopefully you have a better grip on your RA than my dr’s and i did.. mine has always been out of control.

Holly – I never let my employer know that I had health problems..if given the opportunity…they will let you go and hire someone else. I would go to work in so much pain but always kept it to myself…I’m now retired and have a nice pension. People just don’t understand…they think of you as a weak link.

Jennifer – Amen sistah! I agree 100%

Tamara – I had a boss who once told me..after my doc said I needed to take breaks more often…that if I couldn’t handle the job that someone else could….so they mostly don’t care…too many others they can hire….good luck to you…

Caroline – I cant offer you no advice but would like ro see the replies to this I am in a similar situation

Michelle – I am so sorry, i just read NOW that you live in Britain LOL. I do not know the employment laws in England…. I do hope everything works out well for you though sweets

Doreen – Struggling with this myself. was working part time hours. Boss said Friday I need to do 8-5 or quit…

Susan – It’s called The Americans With Disabilities Act. They need to get with the program!

Melissa – I am also filing for disability I just can not mentally and physically handle working anymore. I have found with RA people who don’t have it don’t understand, if it doesn’t affect them personally they just don’t understand. I am hoping it doesn’t take too long for disability as I just filed. I am also an accountant and the brain fog got to be too much.

Tammy – You need to talk to your doctor and get FMLA…that is federal so it doesn’t matter which state you live in. There is also the Americans with Disabilities Act, but in right to work states…it doesn’t offer you protection. If you have a union you can speak with them, but with HR remember…they aren’t there to protect you…they protect your employer. I had to learn that the hard way. Hopefully with medical documentation your boss will work with you, but not always. Good luck!!!

Tracey – I had the same and I work for the nhs you need to get intouch with occupational health they will come to you’re workplace ans assess you they are really good and understanding hope everything works out fir you

Cynthia – I’m pretty sure your condition is covered under the disability act and your employer must accommodate your condition.

Michelle – FMLA is the only reason why I still have a job, one day past 13 weeks I’d be fired…. unfortunately people w/ disabilities are seen as a liability by most employers.

Michelle – You need to get FMLA paperwork from your HR dept. Take it to your rheum, have them complete it. Get on intermittent FMLA. It protects you for 13 weeks per calendar year. Anything RA related, they cannot write you up or complain.

Sharon – I work for a package delivery company but only part time. I work in the mornings but the job is very labor intensive- running up and down stairs, ladders, lifting over 70 lbs. because of my RA I have been out on disability since last September. I inquired about the disabilities act but I work at a small center, so while they could accommodate me, it would be at another center an hour away and if I refused that job, they couldn’t guarantee me my old position back. Am staying out until September of this year and hoping to file for state disability after. Good luck, it certainly isn’t easy…

Diane – My co worker gave me mono, she had no sick days. After being bedfast for months the RA, Fibro, ect came out. Try FMLA with Doc if you can

Michelle – I hate to be the ‘debbie downer’ of the bunch, but that is when I filed for disability. BUT.. I was an accountant and the brain fog alone made it hard to work, I didn’t trust myself handling million dollar companies financial records along with being a CFO for another company were i handled all their day to day functions to include paying their bills, completing orders, payroll, royalties, etc. I also had 30 k in student loans that due to me not being able to work, I was able to get a discharge on them so I don’t have to pay them back unless my financial situation improves..In your line of work, I’m really unsure how that would be, I know for me.. I wouldn’t be able to be on my feet, the fatigue and brain fog would be awful..the dr’s appts would i really don’t know what advice i could give.. maybe some natural supplements throughout the day to help with energy levels?? i don’t know

Cheryl – I was advised by my doctor to go on Disability Pension,cause I can not work anymore!..

Jeanette – Doreen isn’t that illegal ? You should find put.

Anita – It depends on where you live. Texas is a “right to work” state which means the employer can fire you for no reason.

Shelley – Never had an employer understand because I was young. I also went to college and worked at the same time and I just took it one day at a time. I now own a business so I can be more flexible with hours when I need to work less. I think it is worse to have employees that don’t understand that I’m not out having fun but home resting than it was getting a boss to understand.

Louise – You are not alone, and I also live in the UK. X

Virginia – My rheumatologist completed the FMLA paperwork and was very detailed. I honestly do not believe the HR Director read it as she has ZERO understanding about RA but she was appointed to her position and is not trained in HR

Cherlyn – I don’t expect my boss to know every detail and nuance of my illness. My best advice would be to have your Rheumatologist complete FMLA papers. FMLA doesn’t have to be just for times that cause you to be off for weeks. I talked with my rheumy about those days that I wake up and just CANT make it and have no energy left to push myself through the day. He suggested the FMLA and I filed it. It gives me great comfort knowing that I have it when I need it.

Judith – In UK we have the Disability Discrimination Act that gives you certain rights, the words reasonable are used all over – reasonable adjustment etc – but ultimately its a hirer’s market and its a job, not a person, they see. I’ve managed by keeping to non-manual public sector work which tends to show a little more support and tolerance and you working for them helps them to look like a caring employer as long as you’ve declared your condition(s). Its a gamble in the workplace, like you haven’t got enough to worry about!! Good luck x

Renee‘ – Stand up for yourself. You know your body’s limits. They should respect that. And cannot hold that against you. Good luck sweetie! I had to quit my job as a bank teller because I’ve had elbow replacement surgery in addition to five other RA related surgeries in 4 years. I can’t lift boxed coins and stuff. So I’m hoping my appeal with disability will he successful. Pain free internet hugs to you.

Feather – Doctors note, speak with a human resource officer to know rules, laws and regulation for people with health conditions but not on disability. Know your rights as worker but also make sure your employer has no problem with helping you create a balance and keep a good business relationship. Oh, and I hope you get good advice!

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The above is a discussion created by a member and with member generated responses from our Facebook community ( put into a format so that the discussion can be archived for future answers needed by others in a searchable format while keeping member anonymity. Member provided information, statements and opinions do not reflect on or all individuals with Autoimmune Arthritis. We encourage all members to seek professional medical advice for any specific questions and concerns as this does not substitute competent medical care.


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