“You are no different than someone who has had a heart attack. I have no empathy and very little sympathy. This is a business.” Those were my manager’s comments when I told her I was suffering from PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) and needed her assistance.
This is the type of feedback millions of survivors get, whether spoken or unspoken, all over America from ill-informed and uncaring supervisors and managers. We didn’t ask to be traumatized as children, but too many of us, after leaving home, naively believe that society is not like our parents/caretakers, and that we will be treated with dignity and respect. That is not the case. The sad fact is that all too often survivors of child abuse and neglect are not provided reasonable accommodations when their trauma memories become unmanageable. They are instead treated with no sympathy or respect and usually lose their jobs.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) implemented in the 1990s was legislation that was enacted to put employers on notice that disability discrimination (physical and mental) would no longer be tolerated. While this legislation helped some, many businesses worked hard to subvert its intent. The situation got so shameful that disabled employees seeking to fight employer discrimination had to first prove to business managers and owners—versus relying on the diagnoses of medical and psychiatric practitioners—that their disability was severe enough to be considered under the ADA before they could even hope to reach the courthouse or other convening authority.
Data suggests that as many as 97% of all disability cases are decided in favor of the employer, often before the individual even has the opportunity to demonstrate how the company’s treatment was unfair.1
The House Majority Leader at that time, Steny Hoyer, along with others to their credit, passed new legislation that addressed this issue with the intent of restoring the ADA’s original intent—to prevent workplace discrimination of disable employees.
We, as survivors, do not deserve this type of treatment in the workforce. It happens all the time, and it is unconscionable. It is time we made our voices heard to support all survivors on their road to recovery.
1 Hearing on H.R. 3195 “ADA Restoration Act of 2007,” U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, Testimony of Andrew J. Imparato, President and CEO, American Association of People with Disabilities, January 29, 2008