Targeted For Firing Because of Dyslexia

Question:

I was honest with my work and told them I have dyslexia. Now they are accusing me of things I did not do, have chewed me out for taking a day and a half off work because I was so sick I had no voice (I work in a call centre and was actually sent home because my voice was so bad) and are now saying they may fire me.

I believe this is because of my dyslexia, which has not gotten in way of my job. I think this because they flew off the handle at me in the first place because I told them I had it and only told them because they had asked if I had any disabilities. Can they fire me over this?

Signed,

Worried


Answer:

Dear Worried:

I’m going to answer your question in two parts. Part One will be how you can get legal advice about your situation. We aren’t a legal site or an in-depth HR regulations site, and it seems that type of advice might be helpful for you.

The second part of the answer will be about what else might be happening that is jeopardizing your job and what you might do to improve things. First part: Legal or other assistance.

Your best place for advice is someone local who you can talk to and explain all of the details of what has happened at your work. If you don’t have someone local you can check by phone or online with some of the groups I’ve mentioned below.

The fact that you were asked if you have a disability may in itself be a legal problem for your company, but how it was asked may have something to do with that. So, you need to be able to discuss every aspect of your problem with someone who can advise you.

Like most of us, you probably also want to try to get assistance and advice for free or very low cost, if possible. Using government resources, social services or volunteer groups will be helpful. Check the phone book or Internet for government or social service programs related to disabilities and see if they have a hotline or other resource for those with questions such a yours.

You might also want to look up an online or local resource about dyslexia and see if they have options for people to write for advice about employment concerns. Sometimes in larger cities there are support groups for a wide range of disabilities, conditions and illnesses and those with dyslexia often have such supportive meetings. The coordinator for such a group may be able to give you a resource you can use.

If you live in a small community you may need to rely on online resources, but you may also be able to receive information from county agencies or from an attorney. Often attorneys will provide free consultation with quick advice. Ask someone you trust for their thoughts on the subject. Sometimes a family member or friend, or a member of a place of worship or club to which you belong, are interested in helping. Since they know you and the place where you work, they might be able to assist better than anyone else. This next resource may or may not be helpful. If your business is large enough to have an HR section, consider talking to someone there. Explain your worries and ask what the policy is about disabilities. Ask for information and let them know your concerns. Most HR staff would want to know if a situation is being handled incorrectly, even though they might not say so to you. They might also have information about your specific situation and they might have advice for you.

All of those ideas are related to the issue of whether or not your job is at risk because of your dyslexia and what you can do to protect your job if you think you are being targeted because of a disability.

The second part of my answer has to do with what else might be going on that is causing problems at work. It sounds like you don’t have a very friendly or supportive place to work! On the other hand, like all businesses, the main concern is having enough staff to do the work and having the work done correctly.

If your employer depends upon you for entering information correctly, being effective about talking to customers and responding to their requests and being accurate in other details without exception, you can perhaps understand why your managers get very upset if you make mistakes (or if they think you are making mistakes). I can give you an immediate example of how frustrating it is for others when mistakes are made, since the email address you used for this question was rejected when I tried to correspond with you. I think you submitted a sincere question so I can only assume you made an error when you wrote the email address. I’ll try variations on the user name you provided and hope it will get through. But, that shows how important accuracy is! You mention being asked if you have a disability. That makes me wonder if you have made more mistakes than others in your work and they were questioning you about that. You say they have accused you of things you didn’t do, which makes me also think that there is a disagreement between you and your managers about what you have done and how well you have done it. If you have proof that you have not made the errors they have accused you about, you should get that together so you can show them they were wrong.

So, it seems as though one of the first things you could do, other than finding out about your legal rights, is also to look at your work and what have been the complaints of your managers about it.

If the mistakes they say you have made are related to writing or typing words and numbers correctly, there are tips and techniques for helping with that. A support group or a training program can help. Or, you can find some tips that can help by checking online or in books written especially for those with reading and learning disorders.

If you don’t know why your managers are so upset and talking about firing you, talk to them about it. Tell your most immediate supervisor that you want to keep your job and you would like to know what you need to do to correct problems. Write those things down and see what you can do to improve in each category.

Maybe you need to write a bit more slowly or ask callers to speak slowly. You may need to read things back to have people listen for errors. You could ask your supervisor for advice as well and he or she might be happy to help. It sounds as though your supervisors were also angry about you being out sick. Managers are so accustomed to people calling in sick for no reason that they sometimes are very insensitive when people are really ill. I think that’s a shame, because it certainly doesn’t make people feel more loyal to the business!

You can’t do anything about what already happened, but maybe you can work to make sure you stay well this winter and not have any more sick time use. You probably know these tips, but I’ll give them anyway, just in case.

*Wash your hands often and don’t touch your face. *Wash the phone and desk and be cautious about what you touch. *Get a flu shot for sure! *Eat healthily and get plenty of rest.

Those don’t guarantee you’ll stay well, but might help. They certainly can’t hurt!

Another aspect of all of this is to be the kind of employee that is seen as valuable for the team. Often call center work is done in an environment where people don’t get to know each other. But it doesn’t take much time to simply smile as you see people, wave hello, offer to assist with something if you can, chat briefly in break rooms or the hallway, or do other things to reach out and be part of the group. Managers and supervisors appreciate a greeting and a smile as well. Almost everyone feels more positively about someone who seems open and friendly to them.

Right now things are awkward and strained. You may feel your bosses don’t like you anyway. But, see if you can think of yourself as being on your first day of work, when you were more positive and they were too. Focus on what you can do to improve your work quality and quantity and also what you can do to be a dependable and pleasant employee.

No manager is anxious to fire someone and have to train someone else, unless the employee is truly incapable of doing the job. If you can show you are capable, are working to improve, and that you are a good addition to the call center, you may get their support and they may be more willing to help you. If not, you may need to voluntarily move on and find other work where you can be more comfortable and effective. Best wishes to you with this situation. 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.