Going a little farther on my quest….
After I published my post “Let’s see what this gets me….” I received mixed reviews regarding what I had done. Some people said that I was a crusader for those who’d been wronged. Others said I was wasting my time and burning bridges. I don’t think of myself as a crusader. I’m trying to get my own answers but if I do find out something that can help others, I’m more than willing to share the information. I’m not overly concerned with burning bridges since I’d worked long hours in hard conditions to make my bridges sturdy and I feel it’s my now former employer who came behind me, knocked them town, built them back with gas-soaked logs and then left an open flame nearby.
So, I waited over the weekend for a response from the gentleman I’d emailed in the previously mentioned post. I received nothing. I waited during the day yesterday as I listened to the horrendous noise coming from Stupid Neighbors’ driveway (see yesterday’s post for more information) and still received nothing. I finally found the name of the person in charge of the entire Equal Rights Office at headquarters and sent her a letter along with a copy of the letter I’d sent to the other ERO officer to see if I could receive any clarification regarding the information I’d received to date as well as to share additional information that I’d been receiving. Within two hours, I received an email from the original ERO officer I’d attempted to contact. Here is what I received (edited for privacy):
I want to assure you that [Federal Agency Acronym Here] provides reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. I have seen no indication that you received this notification because of your request to have a service animal in the workplace.
My best guidance would be to talk to your Cadre manager about the notification.
Should you wish to request EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Counseling, you may contact [Name] here in the Office of Equal Rights for the assignment of an EEO Counselor. [Name] can be reached at [telephone number and email address].
For your information, I am providing you with the EEO Flier, “Your Right to Equal Opportunity.” The Flier explains the EEO Complaint process, and your rights and the time limits for exercising those rights. If you intend to request EEO Counseling, please contact [Name] as soon as possible.
It wasn’t quite what I was looking for but it also wasn’t the same stock answer I’d received in the past. Now that I was beginning to receive messages from others who had been non-reappointed that also have disabilities and messages from others who knew persons who had been non-reappointed without a clue as to why their years of service would suddenly be stopped, I figured why not try to see this out to the end.
So, I contacted the person that was mentioned in the email I’d received. Here is what I sent (edited for privacy):
I have been referred to you by [Name] due to my suspicion that I and other DAEs who are not being reappointed at this time might be because we have disabilities on-file with our Cadres, Regions, and Headquarters.
I’ve attached the original email that I sent to [Name] and his reply referring me to you at the bottom of this letter. At the time I originally wrote [Name], I felt that I was the only one who had received a non-reappointment letter and wondered if it was because I now utilize a service dog to assist me to do my work and be able to deploy. I have been contacted by another DAE who also has a disability who was not reappointed to their position as well. This person does not utilize a service animal or adaptive equipment, but we both found it quite odd that after filing our requests for reasonable accommodation, the next reappointment period ending resulted in both of us not retaining our positions after approximately 8 years of service. I have been contacted through social media by others who have suspected or believe the same thing, but they have not confirmed with me any information and I therefore cannot speak for them. I am only addressing this for myself at this time.
[Name] stated in his reply that I should speak with my Cadre manger. He must not have read the paragraphs where I did attempt to contact both [Names and Titles], and was only responded to by [Name] with a “stock answer” paragraph, included in the letter below. When I asked additional questions, I was only given the same paragraph as a response — implying that I would receive no other information than what had just been given to me.
I understand the “at-will” hiring and retainment process and I understand through 8600.1 that [Federal Agency Acronym Here] does not have to provide a reason for dismissal to DAEs. But with the questions I have raised and the fact that I am in two protected classes (over-40, disabled), I would believe that it would be in the best interest of [Federal Agency Acronym Here] to provide a reason why I would not be reappointed. That’s what I was originally looking for because if I attempt to apply for another job and they ask “Why were you released from your previous position?” and I have no answer to give, that usually makes them suspect that I had done something wrong. When every performance evaluation I received was excellent and gave nothing but praise, I find it hard to believe that I did something wrong that wouldn’t have been previously addressed with me before deciding to end my employment.
Any information or insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated. I really did not believe after working for so long in the Region and with two different Cadres that always gave me high praise and requested me by name for specific assignments that I would be having to come to ERO for guidance regarding my suspicions of discrimination.
Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I have not yet heard anything today, but I have received more messages of support and disgust at my attempts for a simple answer. Even though I’d resubmitted my resumé prior to going on my “quest” (as some have put it), it’s never been about getting my job back. If they offered it back to me, I’d have to really consider the terms and conditions before I’d take it. If they didn’t offer it to me, I’d have lost nothing else but the time spent looking for answers. If they offered me another position in another Cadre, again I’d really have to consider the terms and conditions before I could consider accepting it.
I’m just trying to save my good name and reputation. After many years working with the same organization, it’s unusual when someone is suddenly not retained in that position without good cause. I just want to make sure that there is a good cause and not an attempt to circumvent the law by stating that “a more nimble organization” is desired and those of us who aren’t as “nimble” (whatever that means) are now considered worthless. They could have said that “cutbacks were needed, your job performance was excellent and letters of referral would be available upon request.” Or they could have been honest and said the negative reasons why someone wasn’t being kept so that they could make adjustments in any future employment endeavors. That kind of thing happens in many organizations where these economic times have required valuable employees to be released. Instead, those of us who were not reappointed were basically told that we didn’t matter anymore. We weren’t “good enough” to be picked to play on the playground with the rest and we weren’t “worthy” of a reason why.
I don’t know where this next round will lead or if anything will come about because of it. But the small part of me that has spent many years advocating for others has reawakened and has decided that I’m worth advocating for as well. Will this all work? Or will it all just blow-up in my face? I don’t know, and I don’t care. My self-worth is worth fighting for and I’m tired of people expecting me to just slink away quietly. Now it’s my turn to be heard.