Monday, February 11, 2013


I have a small disagreement with my Head of Department around a temporary disabilities issue (I can't think of a hamsterology example. Let's say, I'll have my foot in a plaster cast for six weeks, so am seeking permission to not attend the annual PaddleAThon which occurs during that period, because I consider it to be risky to paddle with a cast covered in a plastic bag).  Head of Department says no, because if I say you don't have to go, everyone else will want to skip it too. 

I wish to talk to Occupational Health to get some advice about my rights and how to negotiate with Head of Department, since this is a Health issue.

They can't talk to me until I get a referral from the Head of Department.

Who won't give me one, because I need to go paddle.  Can't just pick and choose the bits of the job you like you know Grumpy!  That's not what we get paid for!

Could have fooled me... looking around, I see many colleagues who have picked and chosen not to teach certain units, or not to uphold grading standards, or to be so bad at administration they never get asked to be on committees...


  1. Does your place have an ombudsperson? Acting as mediators between profs and dept heads is what they do.

    I don't "volunteer" for our paddlethons. ("Expected" service, beyond regular committee duties.) As a form of silent protest. Haven't been called on it yet.

  2. Do you have tenure?
    Do you have a union or faculty association?
    Do you have a labour lawyer?
    Your chair's behaviour is unreasonable and there needs to be a mechanism for addressing it. I am willing to bet that chairs at your university take advantage of this all the time, but Occupational Health exists for a reason, and they should not be able to end-run around it so simply. I suspect it is not legal.

  3. I agree with MA.

    It sounds like rules that perhaps are meant well but have never been thought about if the department head refuses to give the referral. Although it's not exactly the same, you might talk with HR about employment discrimination based on disability.

  4. Don't show up to whatever it is, and make sure you have a Dr.'s note explaining your condition with the date on it. You have the high ground already so no point in having a fight.

  5. I, too, was wondering about an ombudsperson. Union rep would also make sense if applicable.

    Failing that, if you don't think you're in danger of losing your job, I suppose there's the option of sending an email claiming a briefer, more dire illness the morning of the PaddleAThon ("sorry; stomach flu; can't be more than six feet away from the bathroom") or just saying "sorry, I'm just not up to it" then. Or even showing up, then declaring that you have to go home early in the event because your disability is being exacerbated/acting up, and/or spending the great majority of the time in the bathroom, or lying down, or rearranging all the cushions in the boat to elevate the limb, or whatever seems most appropriate to emphasize your disability. Basically, I'm thinking Pavlovian training: if your chair won't accept graceful advance notice, then go in for last-minute/on-the-spot problems that create bother and make him wish he'd taken the advance notice and found a substitute/planned how to work without you.

  6. Thanks Miserians!

    I discovered that my HR rep can also refer me, so will ask them when they're next in (HR Embraces Flexible Working. One rep per department, all on part-time contracts. I can get HR advice on Thursday afternoons and every other Tuesday, or something like that...).

    Sadly it is not a volunteers-sought PaddleAThon, it is a Three Line Whip type event which everyone is supposed to attend. Must admit I'm tempted to follow Cassandra's suggestion, attend, slip (due to bag on casted foot in water) and make sure that I knock Head of Department into the water... AND insist on getting ALL the accident report paperwork filed (it's a HORRIBLE job and HE has to do it...). But I'd rather just not go!

  7. The ombudsman will be related to the chair. Dollars to donuts.