Friday, February 26, 2016

Getting the boot after decades of service -- the Family Medical Leave Act's limitations

12/19/2015 just before the
disc collapse.
Just remember, even after putting in decades on the job...if you have a disability/chronic condition that requires ongoing medical treatment, surgery or both, those 12 weeks of time under the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) are all you are legally entitled to under federal law. And then your employer can choose to let you go.

One can ask for reasonable accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act, such granting an extension of FMLA's job protection for the employee to complete recovery from surgery/rehab, etc.

However, even with physician recommendations provided, it is still the decision of the employer whether to accept that extension request. A company, if large enough, can sometimes accommodate under the ADA by attempting to match the person to another position (of equal level or lower) in the wider organization.

The employee often ends up on the short end of the stick.

Many people end up broke in situations like this, losing their homes, vehicles, etc. they lose the ability to make a living, get into the long disability process and medical bills destroy their lives. All because they got sick...and the limitations of FMLA as a safety net became a stark reality.

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Anyway, with that general information dispensed with, I found out this week that major life changes are ahead for Panda. Priority 1: Panic avoidance - keeping a roof over your head. Priority 2: Handling disability. Priority 3: Figuring out a next chapter and where it takes you.

Dealing with a situation where I already have rheumatoid arthritis, and this acute recent problem - a reherniation of lumbar disc at L5-S1 that has now collapsed -- and L3 and L4 are not far behind --  it is a life altering state at the moment. It could remain acute and painful (sitting at a desk or standing to work for a full day is simply not tolerable). You know it's bad when the most you can do is lie in bed with a pillow between your knees, on your side, and tap out Facebook entries to pass the effing time, or compose emails on your cell phone to try to manage appointments and respond to questions.

Where making a ten-foot trip to the bathroom can be painful and a fall-risk at times. A far cry from walking 2 miles a day, losing 60+ lbs just a few months ago. I have managed to hold my weight loss steady. The "pain diet" works wonders for appetite suppression.

Taking time off for anterior fusion surgery exceeds FMLA time (too risky because of my RA and the frontal approach) and recuperation is long - 4-18 months. So that was out. Getting stabilized (or find out if I can recover enough to return to work) with PT, alternative therapies and medication could do the same - and has run out the FMLA clock.

Life has not treated me kindly so far in 2016. Hopefully something will change for the better. I may have to sell my house and move.

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I have to give a shout-out of love to two really important friends in my life who have been right there for me during the past year of difficult times - Joe Sudbay, citizen journalist extraordinaire and partner in crime during my Pam's House Blend days; and my bestie and Grand Poobah, Jeff Salado, lead singer and manager of the tribute band Journey Revisited.



Both of them are lifelines to sanity and support in times of such upheaval and doubt. I love my buds; it's not often to have not one, but two such beautiful souls have your back.

With Joe Sudbay, 2012 Netroots Nation
With Jeff Salado, October 2015; he gave me the Panda nickname.
Can't say much more than what you see here (and not taking questions, btw). Much is in flux.

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Bonus - the response (click over for comments) when I posted this message on Facebook:


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