Monday, September 15, 2008

Discrimination attacking Linda, and I am helpless, because I am the reason

How do we deal with the pain of seeing our loved ones hurt? I don’t know to as a disabled person. Here I am writing postcards near the beach (I can’t access the beach anyway). This is a good time, almost a peaceful time. As good as it gets.

For me, being attacked or discriminated against is so connected to my work experience that I expect it; because I stand up to bullies and refuse to them bully anyone else, so the cowards that bullies are inevitably end up bullying me. Why? Because I have this weird “professionalism” which means I will do what a boss asks, so if they push me, or throw things at my head, I just duck because they hate me, but often are dependant upon my skills to cover up how crap they are. But I make it clear they will never bully anyone else.

But in Britain, when we came out, both some of people who worked under Linda and her manager felt ‘uncomfortable’ with our relationship and that I would show up to take Linda out to lunch. I guess being out and open isn’t very big there (I didn’t know anyone in her whole department that was). And eventually an accusation was made against her, and no one defended her. And I did not know how to react. And then another accusation was made about me, about how I was “always around and harassing the female staff”. And so I went directly to her manager and told her that this is untrue and she could ask the porters in the University if she didn’t believe me, I waited outside in a sight of view for Linda to see me and then join me to talk at her connivance. I also told her that the fact that she did NOT investigate this, that she brought it to Linda as if it were true and wanted her to act on it was UNPROFESSIONAL behavior, indeed behavior which was illegal under the current employment act. I said that if she wanted a meeting to mediate between the complainants, and me, I was willing. But I was not willing for Linda to suffer simply because she loved me. There was some apologizing and when confronted the young 20 something girls complaining didn’t actually WANT to complain in open mediation, just behind Linda’s back.

Then we moved here. And I had a book, and was going to competitions and Linda’s employers, the BC government were happy to know a spouse who was a Dr. and whose work was in the Globe and Mail. There were no problems from them about vacations or Linda getting time off for epee competitions. But then I became ill. And the government department where she works (who has as a motto about “work life balance”), she ended up with a boss who became increasingly resentful that I was sick. Then there was the turning of the backs of the bosses and others at the Xmas party. That it wasn't ‘appropriate’ that I was there, was the polite attitude. Only it stopped being polite and eventually in an official work evaluation her boss demanded that she put down that she had a disabled spouse and thus her work should be viewed from this distraction.

That got resolved after a phone call. But now it has started again, a steady and consistent level of harassment of Linda because, again, of me. Her boss not only is her mentor and determines her managerial grade (and thus pay grade) but is also in charge of sick and vacation time. She has ordered Linda at least once after she called in sick to move the day as vacation day. Then required a doctor’s note. Then still complained and tried to have the day as vacation because Linda has not done what her boss wants; which is to either divorce me or put in a full care facility as provided by the province. She has moved Linda’s time, docked her pay, though other people work from home on certain days, has excluded Linda of this option, along with forcing her to “prove” a single sick day with a doctor’s note (after already assuming her lying and putting her time down as vacation pay), and told her advancement is stalled due to her lack of commitment to the job over me. She has refused to allow Linda to go to the ER when contacted by authorities….unless the pay was docked, vacation or taken as unpaid leave. She has used her authority as both the person in charge of sick/vacation pay and as supervisor in a way to discriminate against Linda believing the worst (in her view): That Linda might be actually in some way helping her dying partner. Now, unlike the rest of employees who get lunch and coffee breaks, the boss has told her that Linda can no long do what Linda and I have done ever since we got together 15 years ago: call each other to find out how things were going. No, her boss, a government section head over government managers wants to single out Linda and tell her that even at lunch, she is not allowed to do anything which does not further client business, and specifically, nothing to do with me.

In BC, while all medical appointments and such are covered for parents and children, none are for spouses. Which is why the boss has been urging her to ‘make the tough decision’ and either dump me by the side of the road or in a care facility (because THOSE don’t have waiting lists – right!).

The problem is that I am forced this time, to sit and lie by, while my partner is abused at work, singled out, forced to provide doctor’s notes for the smallest times, and virtually refused to allow to go to the ER, because her boss doesn’t want a person whose spouse is disabled. The yet unstated, but emphasised solution is that I die.

And why not, because the Government of British Columbia IS official discriminatory. We went to a picnic this weekend and the form for those attending the park as you can see listed, “How many Adults, Children, Seniors (guess they are like between adults and children) and Disabled” – that is the official form for a BC park. This is also the same park where the person who was there wanted to know WHO had told us that this park was accessible (it was the Paraplegic Association). He was very angry. The thing is, it WOULD be accessible if he would use his key to remove the steel posts and let us drive to the beach to unload the wheelchair. But he didn’t want to. It was the disabled person’s fault for not calling days in advance and “planning ahead” he said (because disabled people you will find aren’t allowed to decide to have a picnic like normal humans). He was a bigot and power tripping and then we find the BC Provincial Park form puts “disabled” different from Adults or Children. The form did not have a blank for “Jews” or “Queers” however.

I can’t stop being disabled, I can’t stop being ill. I can’t stop loving Linda. But the current representative of the government of BC in Linda’s workplace does want that. They want the “problem” (that’s me!) solved so Linda can return to her WORK/life (make life even smaller) balance. That she works more than the hours she is paid each week is irrelevant. That she changed and I changed so that she did not go to appointments with me for a couple months is irrelevant. As long as I exist, Linda will be presecuted, to the point where now her job has been threatened…simply because she refuses to divorce, leave or put me away.

If you want to know what discrimination is come to BC, where while it is illegal federally, apparently either the Mayor of Vancouver (and Victoria) doesn’t want to fight it, or can’t be bothered and the rest of us are too ill, too poor, too busy (with tests) or all of the above (I mention the Mayor of Vancouver because he is IN a wheelchair, why doesn't HE get the parks service to stop putting "Number of Adults, Number of Disabled?" But I face discrimination, blatant open discrimination EVERY DAY I go out. Every day. I can’t get jobs because I am told, “They require walking”, I can’t use a beach because someone doesn’t feel like doing their job. And now, just being friends with me, just being my legally married partner in Canada is enough for not one, but Two SENIOR (as in they report to the Deputy Minister) executives to openly discriminate against my partner because….she loves me.


Lisa Moon said...

Great... makes me question if it's worth it to try and go camping or whatever... what a bunch of shite!

And with Linda: can she file a greivance with the union? I know: another bunch of shite... there is also the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The form is pretty basic to follow; you find your major area, then get more specific, if that makes sense. Like, she would check off employment, then marital status and physical disability, for example. Their tribunal publishes decisions online so you can get an idea of their approach to determining a fair and just resolution. Fine those bastards and make them take some fucking diversity and sensitivity training, too!

Sorry for swearing, but this whole thing is just pissing me right off. GAH, it's the 21st century and we're stuck in this medieval mind-set of fearing the gimps, like we're contagious?! Of course, in this case it's the almighty dollar - better work your ass off for someone else; fuck having your own life...

Apologies for the potty mouth; my bad habit which sometimes seeps out when I'm typing... and typing tired!

yanub said...

You need a lawyer. Surely there is a civil rights organization that might take on your case? Linda's boss is abusing her position and needs to be stopped.

I am constantly shocked at the degree of discrimination you face constantly. It's like everyday is a hellish visit to the Travis County Event Center and Fairgrounds, but at least they are being sued over lack of access, and I get the impression that no one sues for access is Canada. The nerve of that gatekeeper to deny you access when he had the fucking key and just was too vicious to use it!

Damn it. Where are the lawyers?

Shea said...

This so very sad and heartbreaking to me. No one should be judged for who they love. I know that there is probably nothing at all that you can do to make this any better. It seems like this is the sort of situation of making things worse when you complain.

Kate J said...

I do wonder if they would be treating Linda in this way if she were married to a man? I bet they wouldn't... whatever they're saying about the time off for medical appointments not applying to spouses. I mean, rules and procedures are one thing, but attitudes and the way those rules are interpreted, day to day, by an individual manager, are something else. You don't just dump your loved one in a "care" home when just a few phone calls and the occasional day off mean you can continue a loving and caring relationship at home.

I am continually amazed and angered by the problems you both have with the Canadian (or BC) government and public authorities... in my visits to Canada I always thought it was such a socially enlightened country - perhaps even more so than UK - and I'm very sorry indeed to have been proved wrong.

You both have my love, admiration and very best wishes.

FridaWrites said...

I'm full of suggestions, but I'm sure Linda has tried most of them and knows what her boss will and won't do. It's difficult to take it to the next level, whether legally or over the boss's head since that can have repurcussions of its own, but it may be worth a try.

I agree that it's because you are women. Not allowing check in calls--that's a little extreme. I hope she can sneak off somewhere, though I know bathroom walls can reverberate and her boss will want to know where she is if she goes outside to make a call.

Carapace said...

I wonder if Linda would be getting this same treatment if *she* were a man. Or would the demon boss from heck be cheering her on for supporting her frail female partner? Gender roles and ability issues get so mucked up.

I cannot believe you are getting this crap with government employment. There's a reason my resume is one long paean to civil service. If even the feds won't follow the federal laws, who will?

Lene Andersen said...

Aw, crap. I'm so sorry.

Human rights complaint, much?

Perpetual Beginner said...

Such bullshit (not you, Linda's boss). Who the hell thinks the proper solution to an ill loved one is to write them out of your life, shove them in a care facility and walk away?

While I could well understand if you and Linda didn't have the energy to pursue this legally, I agree with lisa moon and yanub - a lawyer and/or filing a grievance is more than warranted. How dare they insist that their employees only have a family and life if they're convenient for work?

Neil said...

I wonder if Linda could legally adopt you as her daughter, despite still being married to you. Then, if she were to switch to a different section or department where they don't know her, she could say she needs time off for her sick daughter - and they couldn't do a damn thing about it.

Kate J: "in my visits to Canada I always thought it was such a socially enlightened country - perhaps even more so than UK - and I'm very sorry indeed to have been proved wrong."

I thought it was, too. I am sorry that we ruined your view of our "fine" country. A very few years ago, Canada was ranked by the UN as one of the best countries in the world to live in; now I learn our dirty little secrets by getting to Beth.

Linda, I'd suggest a civil suit instead of a human rights case, but that's more work piled on top of even more crap, which is precariously balanced on a mountain of crap that you two don't deserve. And I know you have so much extra time that you could devote to your own needs; after all, you have home care for Beth, right? Oh, yeah, that...

Hugs for both of you!

Veralidaine said...

Ugh. Unbelievable. Are you sure Roald Dahl didn't write your life, Beth? Or maybe Shakespeare in one of his more vindictive moods? Could you possibly be a reincarnation of Job?

Okay, so, Linda works for the government. Is there anything tying her to THIS province's government? Could she, perhaps, ask for a transfer to another office, another supervisor, another province? Obviously a move would be hard on you, but I know other Canadian bloggers with disabilities, even gay Canadian bloggers with disabilities (Dave?) have not encountered the same roadblocks in other areas of Canada. Maybe it is worth considering moving and going through that stress in order to drastically reduce your long term stress. No more Beacon, no more Fran, no more nasty mean manager?

That's a pretty drastic idea, though. Maybe something can be done without going that far. Do you know any lawyers? The Human Rights Tribunal like Lisa Moon said? Can she go to the media with her story, like you did with Fran and the tacks outside the door? Maybe a front-page story with the headline, "Despite Prohibitions, BC Government Secretly Harrasses Gay and Lesbian Employees," would put the fear of lawyers into them.

Oh and the campground people? The disabled box? I thought that third gender bullshit got left in Japan where it belongs!


By the way, did your package arrive yet? The postal service didn't give me a tracking number or anything, but it's supposed to be there about now... hope they didn't decide to send it to be irradiated for anthrax or something!

(That's not actually an impossibility at all-- I've had it happen to packages sent TO me before, they go missing for a couple weeks and the explanation has been they were likely sent for irradiation!)

Abi said...

The thing is, the most important thing for Linda at the moment is you. That is the way it should be.

I hate it when people within organisations try to make employees put work before relatives who need help - there is no way Linda should have to make any sort of decision between work and you. It's just not ethical.

To summarise, I am not impressed in the slightest.

Gaina said...

It’s a shame (actually an outrage to be honest) that you experienced such homophobia then because I have to say that England is pretty much totally laid back about sexuality now, if the experiences of my gay friends are anything to go by.

wendryn said...

That deeply sucks. Not much more to say than that, unfortunately - I don't know what the laws will support there.


cheryl g said...

It is all crap. I think I need to look into the grievance process for BC provincial employees to see if they even have one.

If there is anyone on this planet who doesn't deserve this it is you and Linda.

Zoƫ Robinson said...

I'm not familiar with Canadian law (I'm a British law student) so I can't comment on what's happening to you and Linda now, but what happened in the UK is bad enough that an employment tribunal could have been brought and her employer would have had no defence.

Dawn Allenbach said...

Linda's boss is a self-centered prick. If s/he were in Linda's position with a dying partner, s/he would want the consideration s/he is not giving Linda.

Why are so many people uncomfortable around us gimps? I've asked myself this question since I was a little kid. Is it because don't fit into their idea of "normal"? Is it because we make them think of the random, horrible things that could happen to them at any moment of any normal day? Is it because we remind them that they, too, are mortal?

If we could answer that big question, I think it would go a long way toward helping us come to an understanding.

In an attempt to make you feel better, when my dad was going through some health issues a few years ago (diagnosed with congestive heart failure, lupus and Reynaud's acting up, diabetes and blood pressure out of control) and my mom was having to take time off to take him to appointments or whatever, her job eventually started telling her to use vacation or take unpaid days. They even started hinting that they might fire her -- and this was a HOSPITAL, the hospital, in fact, where Dad was getting most of his care. And Mom's a NURSE. She at least had the luxury of having other job options.

I'm sending good thoughts for you both in hopes you'll find a solution that works for everyone.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Lisa: yeah totally, the thing is, the guy could have taken down the posts, he could have offered to drive me down in his truck, instead he BLAMED me for being disabled and distrupting him.

All managers in BC are excluded from the Union, she can however file a grievance which would have an investigative team come in from another ministry to find out if she is being treated fairly. She can also of course go to the CBC:
"Government workers are told to divorce disabled spouses to focus more on the job" - follow up question, "Should government workers then give up children to social services for the same reason - are these the values of our government?"

Believe me, even when I did the seminar on sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, it was optional, which is why 16 out of 400 employees showed up - when is that last time ANY government organization from Transit to Heath has taken diversity training? They do however do diversity ADVERTISING on how they are so diverse (meaning white and able bodied) - even the RCMP has abandoned all programs to encourage native population to apply - and they are required to by FEDERAL LAW!

Yeah, I'm ashamed of my province, when I left it was California, I came back to some southern state or East Texas from 20 years ago.

Yanub: Thanks, we are pursuing with a lawyer, however with all the docking of pay, we are also, with medical costs, pretty maxed out!

You can sue but the cost is on the person sueing (which means the government just has to keep appealing and they eventually win, which is what happens.)

Or they win, as happened three years ago in Richmond BC, but the people sued (the school) still hasn't gotten aroundto stopping the discimination on sexual orientation.

Shea: I think we have reached the point of picking our battles. Can we make the BC parks service (motto: "The best place on earth to live") not be so blantantly anti-disability - no. But with us needing the money from Linda's job and her in an impossible situation where her own job AS WELL as my health is being threatened by her boss - action has to be taken.

KateJ: I agree, I think a lot of time predjudice is subliminal and I know that people WANT hetero couples to be together and yet think that 15 years together doesn't REALLY mean anything if it is a lesbian couple, that what real emotional loss would Linda have....I mean, it's not like a REAL marriage. So suggestions like that are made.

Well, I used to think it was more enlightened than the UK - I think the real difference is that in the UK there are SO many avenues to find equality: council appeals, employment equity tribunals, EC law court. Here, we live in the ONLY province that passed a law to get RID of the lower court which could hear the issue and make quick decisions - which means discrimination has to reach epic levels before action is taken.

Fridawrites: Yes, when they don't PAY for lunch, how is it they are trying to order what she can and can't do? But that is the whole thing, they are trying to determine how she spends her time and energy away from work and make those decisions for her - which isn't thier right.

I have to respect what Linda's actions will take since she has to live with them far after I am gone. But when someone bullies the one I love - I want to take this to the CBC, I want to take it to the Minister, to the Shadow Minister, to the MLA, to have questioned asked in Ottawa in the Parliment floor about it - I want her boss to not only lose her job but never be given a job of that level again. Me, you can bully, but bullying linda is like slapping a kitten just because you can. Linda is nice and good - and I want to remove anyone that does that, I want to raze thier houses, and salt the earth so that everyone will know what happens to people who hurt Linda.

Carapace: Well, since statistically 90% of men divorce their partners who are disabled/sick - I am guessing the work/caregiver stress is a major factor - so I don't know if it would be easier. I do think it is easier to beat up on the lesbian couple becuase so few at work will identify with us and think, "That could be me."

Well, I believe when the right people hear about this, the problem will disappear, but how long will it take until that happens? And how much misery will we suffer?

Lene: You know it, I think I have thier number on speeddail and my emergency contact. Even the social workers admit we live in a province that has epidemic discrimination against people with disabilities.

Perpetual Beginner: Well, the fact that they think that is a solution shows they don't realize, in the retirement capital of Canada how HARD it is to get into a care facility. I mean, even the hospital won't admit me becuase they say, "What can we do? Give you ativan and heart meds - you have those at home." - they need the beds too.

I believe Linda is taking this further, the frustration for me is that now, I no longer have the strength to put "the fear of Elizabeth" into them.

Neil: Ironically we have already thought about getting a divorce and trying to do just that, but it seems to be legally impossible (adopting an adult as a dependant child).

I think in many ways, it is a fine country, I DO get care (somewhat dodgy care) when I can't afford it - and I do get medical treatment (At times, very slowly) for no cost. I just happen to be one of the people who have fallen through the cracks, like many others and no one cares. That's what Moores Sicko was about, and what this is about - people act in ways which seem alien to civilized society and NO ONE CARES?

Veralidaine: I do wonder if I am a Job like character sometimes.

Yeah, that tick box - oh well, like that wooden puppet, one day I can hope to be a REAL human - like an "adult". haha.

As for moving, we are thinking about it it is just, the cost of moving as well as depending on Linda for a job - obviously Ontario seems to have it together more with the care giving, but we would have to start everything over: find a doctor, find specialists, apply for home care, find home care, find a job, find an apartment, apply for disability transport pass, apply for disability pass, apply for disability recreaction pass.

the other thing I keep hearing about the rest of Canada - they have this thing called SNOW - which I hear sucks! Particularly for wheelchairs.

Abi: I am with you - I think Linda and I have the right priorities, it is just hard how we have to fight again and again for them!

Gaina: Where we were living was known, it had the worst rate of "minorities 'falling' down the stairs in the police station" - in fact they had to bring in a new police chief for the city; so without the prosecution of hate crimes or following up, also we lived near two of the largest estates in all of the UK - again, not the place where there is a lot of diversity training. People were like, "You should move to london or Brighton" and we were like, "WHY should WE have to move because of our orientation?" - but there we had so many legal avenues we don't have here.

Wendryn: I WISH I could find a slightly dodgy TV advertising lawyer who will take 1/3 and spend his time sueing these people - hey, we could provide him with a long list and then, whatever he makes, we are better off and he is better off.

Cheryl: Yeah, we must have been REALLY bad people in our last lives or something. Linda is going to look at different avenues.

Zoe: I completely agree, a similar thing happened to me in the UK, I went to the tribunal and they were offering settlement within a month. That is the advantage of the UK, employment tribunals don't need a lawyer, and they can still generate bad press for the employeer. I do miss that. Thanks to XXXXX, they funded the cost of shipping our stuff and two tickets back to Canada!

Dawn: I agree, and they have children, how would they feel if thier boss said, "I want you to give up one of your children to Child and Welfare Services so you can focus on your job more!"? I think they would be horrified and view the person as a heartless monster - so how do I view a person who wants and does interfere with my heath care (as in try to make sure Linda isn't there when I am in ER, isn't there if I happen to die while in ER) and more, to make Linda's life hard both at home and work, when she does such a good job of two difficult jobs.

Yes, why DO they want to put us away so often.

As for your Father, I am very sorry. I have noticed that people like employeers are sympathic for a few months and then, BAM it dries up - well that is becuase disability and illness are not formally or openly accepted in our culture so WHAM, back in the closet it and the person must go - the concern dries up, the people sudden start talking about "needing to refocus on the job" becuase THEY don't know how to deal with illness as a person or an employeer for more than a few months.

That's my belief anyway.

Anonymous said...

As far as the park forms go...they don't have a spot for Jews or whatever, because they don't need special attention. This is a good thing, it sounds like they will accomodate disabled people if needed. Don't always try and find negative in everything it will eat you alive. As for Linda, yeah that sucks but her manager has a job to do too, maybe she has to pick up her slack whenever she has to leave for ANY amount of time.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Dear Anon: I think the Radical Right Forum is two down; I know reading the actual piece wasn't your forte since accomodation WASN'T made, and your attitude is that us terminally ill types shouldn't be negative because it will "eat us alive." Hahahahaha. Yeah, being discriminated against while in tremendous pain does tend to make the rainbows one sees on every corner a bit less bright (Whatever drugs you are on, can you send me them, please?).

As for Linda, you must not have read the comments or the post; first, I didn't say her boss' gender, second I made clear that even WITH the time off Linda works over the hours she is required (she works the extra for FREE!), and third, Governmnent isn't actually like McDonalds, where one person's government portfolio can be taken over, if her portfolio clients have a problem she answers to the Deputy Minister so there is no "slack" - but considering YOUR viewpoint, I recommend your children be given to social services so as not to have YOUR boss be forced to pick up YOUR slack when you have to go to the hospital or pick them up from the principals office. Because hey, you are on the one who thinks your advice is so good, I am just spreading it back to you (that is if you actually have employment: and if you don't have children, I will recommend that your spouse or sexual partner along with your parents be put into care homes so as not to distract you from the almighty workplace and your 'slack').

And Anon, may what has happened to me be but the least that will happen to you; may all that you love be taken from you, may all see you with scorn, may all that you care about turn to dust, may all that is joy turn to ash in your mouth, may your linage die with you, as the skin sloughs from your body, your house burned, salt spread on the earth, may worms and maggots eat upon you while you live, and may you experience pain from this day until the day, decades from now, when you are finally granted the peace you have begged for; decades also after your condition has driven you insane.

I am guessing you did you not read either how I feel about people who bully or talk that way about Linda?

cheryl g said...

Anonymous, stop attacking my family. You are a coward and a bully with no compassion. Go Away, Far Away.

Raccoon said...

I'm not certain I've ever seen discrimination like that. I mean, I might have... Maybe I'm just extraordinarily obtuse...

I hate abuses of authority. What options are available if Linda is unjustly fired?

Raccoon said...

Hrm. Here is a completely off the wall bonkers type thought:

Maybe her manager has the hots for her, and figures that with you out the way they might have a chance?

Heh. Maybe I'm reading too much fiction...

The Girl said...

Oh, Beth. I know how frustrating this is. The bit that is most distressing is that, while in the UK you had all the energy to "put the fear of Elizabeth" into the relevant parties, you feel helpless now. Naomi and I have had to think carefully about which battles we want to fight, because some of them will totally exhaust her and be detrimental to our relationship and they are just not worth it. I am not saying this is one of these (in fact, if I was anywhere near you I would be taking up the case myself and beating the dept so hard that their proverbial noses bled) but I can understand the dilemma and the gut-wrenching pain that comes from watching someone you love get hurt with no way to help.
On the other hand, no one will hold it against you if you decide not to take legal action because, weighing up Linda's work being shit versus spending the time until the end of the year fighting with the Government, it's not an easy decision.
Not entirely sure what I was trying to say. More than anything, I think, that I am still here, supporting in the only way I can.

Neil said...

Beth dear, I've decided what your tombstone should read: "I'll be right back - my condition hasn't stabilized yet!"

Love, hugs, & positive thoughts,