Saved by bureaucracy

( A follow-up on my shaky employment status, as described in a previous post, The Catch.)

So now I’ve twice seen the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat doc, not tree-folk), to figure out if the vertigo, worsening tinnitus and hearing difficulties are related to Ménière’s, or “just” migraines.  At those visits I also spent time in the audiologist’s booth:  “Huh?  Sorry, I can’t see what you’re saying.”  “Oh,” he replied jovially, “this isn’t a vision test, it’s a hearing test.”  Ha, ha.  Very funny.

(Have I mentioned that lately one of the cable channels is messed up, and maddenly, we’ve not had any closed-captions on episodes of CSI ?  Listening to TV is hard enough with fussy babies who want bouncing, much less auditory processing glitches and tinnitus.)

And then something wonderful happened:

The day after my first ENT visit, it occurred to me that it might be useful to ge an official letter from the doc to give to my various bosses.  So I called in my request to the office nurse and picked it up from the receptionist and passed out copies to my supervisors and those got fowarded to Human Resources people and —


I was saved by bureaucracy.

(I mean hey, it’s gotta happen sometime, right?)

Because apparently being treated for Ménière’s disease (note the careful legal waffling on diagnostics) falls under the umbrella of an American labor law known as the The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).  Basically, taking care of sick family members, birth, adoption, or one’s own illness (covered by the Act) is protected so the worker can get unpaid sick leave without worrying about job security.

I cannot be dunned for absences related to bouts of vertigo.

My principal was of course very polite and helpful in the process of explanating this unexpected coverage.  I was asked about accommodations that might be helpful.  Alas, none of the things suggested by the Job Accommodation Network are applicable to my job (but that’s a great site if you need ideas for accommodations for most any sort of affliction or difference).

However, I was giving some 60 days of sick leave for absences related to — and only to — Ménière’s.  Despite my initial relief, my job status still feels as wobbly as my gait some days.  Stay tuned for further developments.


  1. 10 December 2009 at 16:42

    I have known two people with Meniere’s. (Or, more precisely, two who I knew at the time had Meniere’s … given my involvement with the Deaf community I’m sure I must have met others without being aware of it.) One was a co-worker in my first job after graduation, the other was a student of mine a few years ago. Both did need a certain flexibility in terms of being able to take time off, or arrive late/leave early. The co-worker also would sometimes close the door to her office and lie down on the floor briefly (she had a pillow there) when continuing to sit at her desk was too much to manage.

  2. andrea said,

    28 November 2009 at 23:31


    The 19 days is in a calendar year — from the first of January, not August. That’s only two days a month (including times when I left half an hour early, after the students were gone), what you referred to as the amount of absences by an “average person”.

    I’m neither planning on, nor expecting to use, all 60 allowable days. I am in fact in the midst of various evaluations by specialists so we can pinpoint the cause of my health problems, and hopefully resolve them and eliminate these absences! I don’t want to be absent, missing out on the daily events and leaving the other two educators in the room short of assistance. (The fact that there are three of us help address those concerns about consistency for the students.) What I do want is to not lose my job due to these intermittent health issues that I cannot help!

    With regards to noise, I meant was that I don’t give exceptionally noisy toys as gifts, the sort with unnecessary “bangs and whistles” instead of flexible play value. I don’t mind the jingly or rattly toys, nor do I mind the sounds of children playing or ordinary baby crying (well, aside from the maternal urge to go give the tot attention). Once, again, the complaint was not about my grandson making normal baby noises, but about the dysfunctional television captions!

    Apparently much of your comments stemmed from misunderstandings, so let’s let this rest. Both of us work long hours on not enough sleep, and it’s easy to misinterpret things. I was not saying that you are a spammer, or a concern troll; I was explaining that I accept comments that aren’t the blog version of “junk mail”. So please don’t assume that I am calling names.

    I’ve been “paying into the system” for over 30 years. However, I don’t mind that some of my taxes go to support people who are, for various reasons, unable to work, or who need other forms of assistance. Disability and unemployment can happen to anyone, at any time. After all, we’re all here to help each other out.


  3. Wendy W. said,

    28 November 2009 at 17:28

    Shan: First of all, I’m not against people, you don’t know me, and maybe your comments are kicking me when I am down. I have not chosen to post my life in a blog on the Internet and leave it open to comments. But this writer has and I am simply expressing my opinion, which I believe is a right of mine. I happened across this particular blog and found and find it quite amusing. I hope your comments made you feel better (you know, criticizing me for criticizing someone else).

    Andrea: I do apologize, not 19 events in October, but by October. A quote copied directly from your October 24 post entitled “Catch” ==> “Taking 19 sick-day events by October due to viruses, migraines, vertigo or doctor appointments is excessive, and any further such absences can result in termination of employment.” So “BY” October would mean a little bit of August and September (which I don’t know exactly when your school starts). Which if my math is correct 6 weeks at five days a week is 30 days and you had 19 “events” within those 30 days that is almost 2/3rds of the days you had been in school that you had these “events”. If you ran your own business and one of your employees had 19 events out of 30 days, wouldn’t you have a bit a problem with it? Or would you keep paying them and covering for the days they were gone?

    If you are missing school that much, where is the consistency for the students who depend on YOU? Study after study has shown that it is consistency in a child’s/student’s life that helps them find success. Again, yes, I know studies can be shown to prove whatever you want your point to be. But seriously, as an educator you should know, that consistency is a major factor for kids and most of the things you are dealing with are not contagious.

    Yes, everyone picks up the slack when some is gone. But lets say the average person is gone 2 maybe 3 times a month, and you are gone, 10-12 days a month, seems to me some are getting to pick up more slack then others.

    No, didn’t say you took 60 days off, but you stated you could get 60 days off and made sure your principal knew that, which leads to average reader to say, you planning on taking as many days as you need if that is 60 days, then so be it. At the end of the school year I would like to know how many hours or days you took off for the year. It looks like you have used almost a third of them already and that was only two months into the school year.
    Am I picking up your personal slack, nope. I was referring to the system as a “whole” as you often do in your blogs. I believe even one person wrote a comment to one of your sessions, that said she would like to lose weight, but if she did, she might have to go back to work, so she would just keep the weight. So let’s see she is probably not paying into the system, but taking from it, while I also work my tail off, get about 4-5 hours of sleep a night, continuously pay into the system while I look at the fact that the system is being depleted by people who just keep taking and taking and taking so that in the future when I retire, there won’t be any of the money I have put into the system because all the people with “events” in their lives were covered.

    From your blog “And that’s why I never give anyone’s kids toys that make noises,” I nodded sagely.” Gosh leads me to believe you don’t like noise and don’t think babies should make noise.

    Sorry, I know this was lengthy, but I wanted to respond to your points. I am talking about your postings, how is that not relevant to the topic at hand? Gosh, and for being such a tortured person, calling names, I’m surprised. I am pretty sure I live in more of the real-world then you do.

    Again, you are the one who chose to post your life on a blog and allow comments.

  4. medrecgal said,

    27 November 2009 at 3:20

    I know all about the ins and outs of bureaucracy, mostly because of my ongoing tangles with NLD/AD(H)D/etc. Sometimes they just don’t get it, and it took me nearly 13 years for one of them to finally get it right and use what knowledge they had of my disability to help me get the necessary accommodations to pass my certification exam so I stood some chance of actually getting a job in my field. I almost fell out of my chair in shock after reading the analysis he gave to the powers that be administering the exam (guess he was paying attention after all), but at least I stood a chance of passing it as a result.

    The irony in my case? I wound up with a job that’s part of a different function of bureaucracy as a result…exactly where I always said I didn’t want to be! (But it still beats the pants off of retail!)

  5. Stephanie said,

    25 November 2009 at 20:58

    Well, I’m glad bureaucracy is useful for something! Though, it seems a bit late for them to “discover” that legislation actually applies to your situation.

  6. Ettina said,

    25 November 2009 at 19:54

    As I was reading, two other funny stories about beaurocracy popped into my head:
    Firstly, I heard a story about an old guy who’d immigrated to Canada from Ukraine a long time ago, and wanted to get old-age pension. However, when he immigrated, the records weren’t very good, and so they were having a lot of trouble proving that he’d been in Canada long enough to qualify for pension even though he’d lived here for decades. But finally, it turned out that he’d been caught in a riot, beaten up by some police officers who damaged his clothes in the process, and then arrested by some other police officers for indecent exposure because his clothes were damaged. Which proved he’d been in Canada at the time. So his arrest actually helped him.
    The second story happened to me. I needed to get a criminal record check for a job, and when I was there it turned out that I needed two pieces of government-issued ID, and I only had one. So then they said if I’d gotten a traffic violation or something, they could look me up and use that instead of the second piece of ID. Unfortunately, I hadn’t. The person commented that anything that would’ve gotten me in their records could be used, and finally I realized that since my cousin had been convicted of sexually abusing me, I should be in the police record as a victim. So it turned out that because I’d been sexually abused, I could get a criminal record check and sign up for a job!

  7. andrea said,

    25 November 2009 at 16:25

    Perhaps you are either grossly misunderstanding, or are creating straw-man arguments.

    1. I was not complaining about bureaucracy, but rather remarking upon the irony of the situation.
    2. I am not “abandoning” the students; I am one of three educators in the room.
    3. All of the staff members in the program have to “pick up the slack” when someone is ill — and we’d rather they stayed home and got better than to come to school with something contagious that the rest of us can catch.
    4. I don’t complain when someone else is off ill — you are making that up.
    5. I am not taking 60 days away from my job; I was explaining that FMLA provides up to that amount.
    6. Go back and re-read: I’ve not been off 19 times in a month, but 19 times in a year, and half of those absences were not due to illness, but due to leaving early for doctor appointments (that could not be scheduled for other times). Even then, some of those include leaving after the students are gone.
    7. Of course babies make noises and want attention — the complaint was not about the baby, but about the dysfunctional captions.
    8. I fail to see how “people like [you]” are “picking up my slack”. I work 60 hours a week, and get about 6 hours of sleep a night; I’m hardly a “slacker”.
    9. I’m always glad to entertain comments, as long as they are actually relevant to the topic at hand, rather than complaints about exaggerations or misrepresentations.

    I have no interest in providing a platform for infomercials and irrelevant spam, or for concern trolls who do not operate in a reality-based world. When people comment on someone else’s blog, the points are much more effective when stated objectively, rather than as ad hominem fallacies.


  8. Shan said,

    25 November 2009 at 4:11

    Wendy, if you’re so very against people complaining, what on earth did you post that comment for? I’m sorry things are so bad for you that kicking people when they’re down makes you feel better, but it’s not really a reliable way to improve things…

  9. Wendy W. said,

    24 November 2009 at 4:41

    What I have found is that those who most complain about bureaucracy are usually the very first ones to take full advantage of it. Which looking at your posts is exactly what you are doing. If you’re so against the “red tape” why do you work for a school?
    I understand being sick, but do you stop to think of the kids who you are basically abandoning? Yes, someone is watching them, but where is the consistency? Did or do you stop to think about the other people who have to pick up your slack from not being there? They may say “oh, it’s okay” but it’s not. You signed on to do a job, you’re not doing it, and you expect everyone to pick up what you drop, and then complain about those same people.
    If you need to take 60 days away from working at a school you should just quit, but then you would be the first in line for unemployment earnings, or free medical, or whatever else you could get while probably still complaining about that darn bureaucracy. You shouldn’t be able to (although the bureaucracy is what has allowed it) have it both ways, pick a side and stay there.
    And yes, 19 episodes in a month is excessive. Just admit you want your cake and to eat it too, as well as, take everyone else’s piece.
    By the way, babies are supposed to make noise. They are supposed to laugh and cry and yes, knock stuff over that makes an even bigger and better noise. Whose world are you living in? It does not seem one of reality. But that’s okay, let people like me pick up your slack, it doesn’t obviously bother you
    But this post will probably hurt your feelings, so you will probably delete it, while preaching that everyone should have freedom of speech and freedom of posting.

  10. greg said,

    23 November 2009 at 14:21

    thats a great start

  11. Stephanie said,

    23 November 2009 at 2:19

    I hope you find a solution. Meniere’s was debilitating for my grandmother. She had about three years of dizziness before she was diagnosed. She’d sit in a chair while the room spun around her — or worse –would suddenly find herself on the floor. At 85 she had surgery to destroy what was left of the hearing in the ear that was giving her trouble. It stopped the Menieres.

    So sorry you are going thru this.

  12. Rose said,

    22 November 2009 at 17:11

    Cute post! The title alone drew me in. Hope you get it all worked out.

  13. 22 November 2009 at 15:40

    I am due to see an ENT specialist next month because of my vertigo.

    The Dr thinks it is BPPV I certainly do not wish for meniere’s I had a bout of labyrinthis a long time ago now and that was on all the time whereas what I have now, though annoying is only related to being in a particular position and is most noticable when I get out of bed in the morning.

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