“Jokes” at work

I’m a PhD student and work part time. When I applied to my job I put on the form that I had a long term health condition. I’ve been as clear with my boss as possible about my condition (lupus and coeliac) and I’ve only had one sick day but done a lot of over time for them. My boss keeps making jokes about “employing healthy people” in the future or asking at interview if people have health conditions. He’s made jokes about “not getting any more illnesses, Josie!” And if anyone at work gets a cold he’ll look at me and say “do I employ anyone whose healthy?!”

I’m an academic, so I’m pretty thick skinned but I do find this demeaning and difficult especially as it can be in front of customers and always in front of other staff. I was as open as possible before I was employed by them so I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong. I do resent being called “unhealthy” because my conditions are not a result of neglect or bad lifestyle choices. As I get older things have gotten worse and these losses of independence are crippling enough without someone reminding me of them every day at work.

Am I just being too sensitive?

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20 Replies
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I know how you feel. I work full time and even though my illness started after I started work here I’m made to feel small and inadequate. There are constant jokes about not sneezing by me or I’ll be off sick again and then the condescending comments about how I shouldn’t be doing stuff in case it aggrevates my condition. I am so fed up. Plus because I was off sick for 6 months and then off sick for 3 days 3 months later I am on an attendance plan with a view to a disciplinary if I’m off for more sickness. So you aren’t alone but that shouldn’t be any comfort. Pull your boss to one side and tell them that their comments are offensive and unprofessional. I had to mention the disability discrimination act to be taken seriously xx

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This is dreadful the way you are being treated.

Have a look at the gov web site if you are in the UK:

gov.uk/discrimination-your-...

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Hi raeofsunshine

You certainly are not being overly sensitive, it's your boss who has the problem and shouldn't be talking to you in that way!. It's so demeaning specially as your working so hard and achieving a lot despite your health conditions!.

Have a look at citizens advice website that has lots of employment info to help show you where you stand, www. citizens advice.org.uk alternatively you can phone them for advice 03444 111 444.

You might like to keep some leaflets on lupus and caeliac in your bag and you could show them to anyone giving you grief. A lot of it is ignorance!. Have you got a line manager you could talk to or a HR dept or union?.

Do hope you can sort this chap out as stress is no good for either illness and I admire you for juggling work and study!. Take careX

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Well said Misty14

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Thank you mew, hope your well. X

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I think he does have a problem and needs a bit of re education and sensitivity training. You could get a leaflet about lupus to give to him and afterward have a chat before considering further action. He may have no experience of someone with a long term condition and has not a clue how to broach the subject.

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Hi Raeofsunshine

Sorry to hear you are being goaded re your health by an immature boss. Thick skinned or not, this type of behaviour is not what you need. Sensitive? It would be just the same for someone that is healthy to be harrassed about a different issue on a regular basis. Just because it's about your health doesn't mean that it's ok for him to continue to be an ass!

Take a look at these publications and perhaps you could point your boss/employer in the same direction too. Hopefully he might better understand what you deal with on a daily basis, let alone his unhelpful attitude adding to the mix!

lupusuk.org.uk/publications/

Sue. x

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You are not being oversensitive at all and I think your boss is behaving in a disgusting, discriminatory manner and something should ideally be done about it. Do you have a separate HR department or is there a manager above this person? From the sound of things, it doesn't seem as though simply educating them about chronic health conditions and lupus will just be enough. People like this are bullies and should not be allowed to get away with this. I've had problems too when I was working for a charity of all things - so much sarcasm and nastiness despite going above and beyond to prove ourselves better than the average 'healthy' person.

lupusuk.org.uk/lupus-and-work/

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What a horrible bully. No you are not being too sensitive and he needs to check anti-discrimination law on disability. HR might be able to help on these issues (I know that seems counter intuitive but they are the ones that have to make sure staff are compliant).

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What an xxxxhole

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Hello Raeofsunshine. I am sorry you have gone through this. I hope I am wrong, but not only is it discriminatory, but also a form of bullying. This boss seems to (in a way) be telling you not to have any more time off, even though your absenteeism in very minimal. In this day and age this type of treatment is a no no. You have every right to cal ACAS who will listen to you and give you up to date information. All of the replies you have received are spot on, showing you that you are not alone. Keep smiling and don’t let him get at you.

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It is outrageous...it is part of the unseen unappreciated burden of lupus ..his remarks are wearying and as you say demeaning. He is making things worse. You may have to use the equality act as he is clearly insensitive and thoughtless about impact of his words I’ve always struggled with the idea of being unhealthy.because off-the-peg way the expression is used. .I have a long term condition you are right, don’t give up

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Your boss needs to refer to the employment law on discrimination against people with disabilities and long term health conditions.

Your boss is breaking the law, I can only assume that it is a way of bullying you.

Could you meet with this person and make it clear the it's not acceptable?

If not I suggest that HR might help.

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WEll he would be breaking the law to ask people and not employing them on that basis! Sounds like a right p**** to me and has no right to say anything about ur conditions.

If u aren’t that bothered about the job I’d have him for it for discrimination

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I'd say that's harassment! Maybe you should point them in the direction of such guides Inc. what it's like to live with an invisible illness?

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As far as I am concerned, the only one allowed to make a remark or "joke" about your condition is YOU!!!! xoxoxo I say things about Me...but wouldn't even think to remark"joke" about someone else....

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Hi Raeofsunshine,

I am sorry to hear that your boss has been making unnecessary remarks towards you. You are not being oversensitive; you have every right to take a stand against this sort of behaviour. Have you thought about discussing your boss’ attitude and behaviour with your company’s human resources department?

We published a blog article on ‘lupus and work’ which discusses what you can do if an employer treats you unfairly: lupusuk.org.uk/lupus-and-work/

We also published information on lupus and employment which discusses your rights as an employee and support services that are available to you: lupusuk.org.uk/working-with...

Please let us know how you get on, wishing you all the best.

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So sorry to hear this . I was constantly being told by my line manager that I was a hypochondriac - what started as a ‘joke’ grew into this comment being made in front of other staff . I spoke with them and told them I didn’t find it funny - fortunately this worked and they have been very supportive ever since .

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Ugh. I'd be so tempted to say "Maybe you don't hire healthy people, but you're obviously okay with assholes like yourself working here."

*HUGS* He is being a jerk and you have every right to be offended.

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Ugh. Those aren’t jokes. Those are carefully aimed barbs. I can’t add anything more than what you’ve already been advised but I wish you strength. You deserve better.

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