Job Discrimination

Job Discrimination

by Katie Beckett

One of the biggest issues facing young people with disabilities is job discrimination. The discrimination becomes subtler because of the threat of litigation. Instead of being blunt by saying that this job is not open to people with disabilities, people at the job can make the workplace unbearable to the point the person with the disability usually quits out of frustration. Many people within the disability community would think that a life long advocate would recognize discrimination and fight but I didn’t recognize it. I took it for much to long. This is my story.

I started working at the music store I the local mall when I was 16. I loved going to the mall and spending hours in the music store. I knew all the artists and songs. I always knew the new release dates. One day, the manager of the store offered me a job. I was ecstatic. I loved working there. Then, my manager and the assistant manager left to pursue other interests. This is when the problems started. The new assistant manager cut my hours drastically and was very hard on me. It was apparent to the new manager that he was much harder on me than everyone else but she couldn’t get through to him.

I never called in sick unless I was very sick most of the time. When I wasn’t at work, I was in the hospital or close to it. He started getting on me about my sick days. He also asked me to lift boxes and do other things he knew I could not do because I had always been upfront about my limitations. Still I stuck it out and took it.

I truly thought that it was my fault and that something was wrong with me. I came home from work crying most of the time. But I was torn because I loved listening to music and helping people find the music they loved. Despite what my assistant manger thought I was very good at my job. People knew to come to me when they had questions. I was known to know the answers.

It was not until my mother went to talk with the manager that I spoke up. When I did, I was scared. I didn’t want to lose my job. Speaking up did have its price because I was treated differently by the other employees. The manager was supportive and helpful but was very scared of litigation and losing her job. Finally, there was a meeting between the assistant manager, the manager and myself—without my mother present. He apologized but it was apparent he didn’t get it. He told me that “I was in the Navy and I fought for people. People just like you.” I won’t tell you what I wanted to say to that. He made me sign a paper saying he had apologized because litigation was threatened. I did end up quitting the job I did love but the story has a happy conclusion. The Navy man was being considered for his own store when my manager left shortly after I did; Before she left, she let the woman in charge of making the decision know a bit about my case. My case, along with his interview, helped her to decide against giving him his own store. She reportedly said that she thought he was a “schmuck”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Now I work as a receptionist at the local YWCA. People tell me what a good job I am doing, even the Executive Director. I am making more money than I did working at the national music chain. I got cards and flowers in Secretary’s Day and we even have Employee Appreciation Day here.

  • Keep talking about the discrimination until someone listens.
  • Don’t get discouraged—good things come out of bad things.
  • You are strong, not weak. If you were weak you would not have come this far.
  • The only limitations are the ones you let people put on you and the ones you put on yourself.
  • There are jobs out there with people who will respect your talents and uniqueness.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you find that job.
  • Keep your head up.

"Till next time, take care of yourself and each other."

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