Harassed About Dyslexia

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about dyslexic son: Today co-workers, assistant managers and management continued to make fun of him for a spelling error on a maintenance report.

My son is 21 years old and recently started a job at a franchise auto mechanic shop. My son is documented through the state to be dyslexic. Today co-workers, assistant managers and management continued to make fun of him for a spelling error on a maintenance report. The harassment continued even though he re-informed them of his dyslexia and asked them twice to stop. When he asked for the number for HR he was given a number for a sex chat phone line by his manager. Frustrated, he called me to help get him in touch with HR. How can we stop this on this job and others and what are his legal rights and legal course of action if any?

Signed, Supportive and Frustrated

Dear Supportive and Frustrated:

I don’t usually jump to the conclusion that an attorney is needed, but I do think in this case you should contact an attorney you trust and ask if you can receive a free consultation during which he or a paralegal can review your situation to see if you have a civil or other case.I think you would need to show that an effort was made through HR to remedy the situation, but an attorney may know something differently.

Clearly this is inappropriate and mean-spirited, no matter how it started out. Giving him the number for a sex chat line makes it much worse. I think the company HR office will not be happy to hear that. Before you contact an attorney you may want to see if you can find the national headquarters for the company. Then, have your son call them and ask for an address to send a letter directly to the director of HR. You will want your information to be sent in writing or by email. If you want to send an email your son will probably need to talk to them to let them know to expect it so it isn’t deleted.

He will need to be the one who makes the complaint, since he is the one who has been the victim of the cruel humor.Unfortunately, there are two negative aspects to the actions I suggest. First, he will be working there until this is investigated and that could take awhile. Second, once it is investigated, the manager and others will be aware that he complained. Whether it’s right or not, probably most employees will feel he was wrong to make the complaint.So, when he writes he may want to ask if he can work at another of the franchises–the one closest to him–other than the one about which he has complained. If he’s a very strong-minded young man, he may want to just stick it out where he is.

However, once he has complained he should be certain to document any harassing behavior about his complaint. I do think you should be talking to an attorney when you can, since he can advise your son about how to handle further joking or any other harassing behavior.Another route is to contact the section that certified your son as someone working with dyslexia and let them know about what has happened. They may have staff or resources that could help for free or very reduced costs.There are various associations about dyslexia and those people would be aware of legislation and what you are likely to be able to achieve by following this up.Fortunately there has been only this one incident.

Perhaps tomorrow the manager and others will have had time to realize how badly they acted and try to make it up to him, if for no other reason than to stay out of trouble.If another mocking session of that nature happens it would be best for him to get away from the people doing the talking or to leave the entire shop if he has too. I think that would be an extreme last option, but may be the only thing that works.Best wishes to you with this. It’s very disheartening for your son, I’m sure. This will be a good but painful way for him to learn the techniques for dealing with those who can’t deal with dyslexia. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.