Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

When to file a lawsuit

Will I AmWWill I Am Posts: 43
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Good morning. I had a lumbar fusion (L4-L5, L5-S1) at the end of last year. There were some complications with the surgery, and I was out of work for about 8 months.

On my schedule is a corrective surgery to remove hardware, shave some bone, and try to remove scar tissue. My Dr. gave me the choice if I wanted to go back to work in the meantime. I needed the money VERY badly, so I figured I would choose to go back.

Obviously, as we all know, I walk "different". I walk very slow, and very rigid. I am FULLY aware of the way I walk.

Once I returned to work, here are some comments my co-workers said to me (in their minds, they are making a funny):
  • “You got something stuck up your a$$? You’re walking like it”
  • “You walk like Frankenstein”
  • “You and (another guy that walks slow)should have a race”
  • “You walk any slower, and you will go back in time”
  • “Looking pretty stiff, got something wrong?”
  • “What’s wrong with you, got lead in your pockets?”
  • “I’ll race ya”
These are just a handful of them. I sent an email to my direct manager about this on a Friday, and he replied apologizing for the lack of sensitivity on the part of my co-workers. He then said that he wanted to sit down and talk with me on Monday. Monday came around, and he avoided me all day. We made eye contact walking towards each other in the hall, but he ducked out before I could get close to him.

I usually have a pretty thick skin, but I have been in a very dark place due to all of this. I am not happy with myself, and have had very dark thoughts. I just want to come to work, do my job, make a FULL paycheck, and go home.

I am having a tough enough time adjusting to sitting down more than I have in almost a year, but this is eating away at my pride.

I am at the point that I have written it all down, printed my correspondence with my mgr, and am ready to talk to an attorney.


  • Also, I am not "that" guy at work. I don't make waves, and am not known for running to the mgr when something is the slightest bit wrong.

    I am almost being made to feel as if I have the reputation for doing this. Funny thing is, I have been at this job for 8 years, and have never had an issue at all.

    Imagine that.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    Who and Why are you trying to start a law suit against?
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • My employer. The "why" is because I shouldn't have to listen to comments that are essentially making fun of my disability.

    In my mind, I went forward to management about it, and nothing has been done. In the time between now, and my first post, a manager from another department just made a comment to me.

    -came running loudly behind me

    "I was seeing if you would move faster. You are so slow"
  • Also, I have made it clear to those that make comments that it isn't funny to me. Those same people seem to be living in "Groundhog's Day" since they seem to find something else to say about it like it never happened.
  • Bullying someone can be some of the most disgusting behavior we as humans partake in. With that being said I for one have had to grow a lot thicker skin, and learn to brush it off. It seems to me some people get a kick out bothering someone and when they know it is, they do it even more. Keep it in perspective all of those people are just petty.

    A few things here apply: Have you given your employer ample time to try and resolve the conflict?

    In order to file a law suit against someone or some entity you have to sustained some form of injury. So you would need to decide what is the injury that you occurring in this manner. Being rude is not against the law. So you would have to have measurable injury and only you can determine that.

    While it is unpleasant and sad what you are going through and so high schoolish, I would throw some jokes right back. You know something to the effect yeah the doctors can help fix my legs, but can your doctors fix stupid? Or are you getting a face lift to help with that ugly mouth.

    I can clearly understand your frustrations with what is happening, but people have a weird thing when they don't understand something they tend to make ugly comments. It is more about ignorance on their part, than anything. If your finding it uncomfortable at work right now filling a law suit, will more than likely make so uncomfortable for you there, you won't want to be employed there.

    I am not sure where you are located but some states are "right to work", or "employment at will". Which basically means they need to know reason to end your employment. AS someone who was injured on the job, I can tell you one thing being involved in legal issues is probably just as draining as the physical injury I sustained. So while all of this harrasement is not needed in your life, the question would be "what injury have you sustained and did you give your employer ample time to address it? But I am not sure if it is really against the law either? I am certainly not saying what they are doing is right, but just want you to understand the implications that can occur if you file a lawsuit.
  • go up the chain of command. Send a letter to your manager's supervisor.

  • I was reading a bit on my state's EEOC site. Harrassment is on there, but there is also something that says you can't do much for stupid people being stupid.

    Between this post and my last, I just got what was this person's 3rd comment to me. I politely told him what he could do with himself. The look of shock was priceless.

    It's funny when you are already on the verge of not being anymore as it is, you have to deal with this junk too.
  • I would listen to TamTam'S advice. She's right on.
  • Before your surgery were you one of the employees who enjoyed joking around with your fellow employees? Did you ever feel others should grow a 'thicker skin'? The reason I ask is not to make light of bullying but rather to question if your fellow employees are just joking around with you in a way you might have found fun 2 years ago???

    Six years ago I had my knee scoped and it became infected. I wound up wearing a fanny pack for about 45 days which every hour on the hour pumped an antibiotic into my system. The machine was not loud but could be heard by others. At work every time it went on my co-workers would take turns coming up to me and stating "oh look, Paul is feeding again". Sometimes they would do it behind my back so I could hear them. I became very self conscious but these were my friends and they were just having a little fun in the same manner I joke around.

    Are you really just scared about losing your pay check and are looking for ways to get a pay check so the bills can get paid? I have been there and know how scary not worning is!!

    Good luck..........Paul
  • While I can understand your situation I'm not sure I share your interest in filing a lawsuit. I'm not certain what a lawsuit would accomplish other than further alienating you from your coworkers.

    My understanding comes from having been one of the few women in a male dominated career field. I was in aircraft maintenance and from day one I had to put up with the bullying and snide remarks. Yes yes there are policies, procedures and programs in place that are designed to deal with this sort of thing. My experience has been that those tend to create more issues than they fix.

    These folks that harass and make snide remarks, are most of the time just looking to get a reaction. The more you react, the more perverse pleasure they get from the situation. I learned after a while that the best way to stop this stuff from happening, is to stop "reacting" to it. Without that reaction, it loses it's appeal and soon they quit and leave you alone.

    Depending upon what kind of job you have, I wonder if it is possible to just "show up, do the job you were hired to do and go home". Leaving behind a bunch of fools who don't know how to react, when the target of their foolishness fails to respond to it.

    Just my $.02

  • I think people here have it spot on. What makes people go on the attack and lose their humanity? Fear, jealousy, embarrassment, and that good old standby power.

    You do need to have that sit-down with your boss and plan to discuss your disability with your coworkers. Once they understand why you walk so slowly, some will stop (the ones who were doing it because they thought it was funny, or who just didn't know it was a disability).

    If that doesn't work, you generally go to Human Resources and make a formal complaint of workplace harassment. I've seen this help in very few cases though :(

    At that point you could contact the EEOC for assistance, I think.

    As for when you sue, the answer is- when you need to. WHen it's bothering you too much to stay at your job but repeated attempts to contact various superiors haven't solved the issue. Not before then
  • I am not doing it for the money
  • Of course not. The lawsuit is the last ditch effort to get results if the company refuses to work with you. But what that means is that you have to be really sure that you've exhausted all avenues internally of finding someone who will get results.

    Just letting it go means leaving it for the next disabled person to walk into. I admire people who do the right thing in creating better workplaces for everybody, even when it might make things harder for themselves.

    But just asking your boss isn't enough, you have to ask, write letters, go over his head, etc.

    It's just amazing how group think at an organization can get so out of whack that what seems so obviously wrong to any reasonable person can seem OK to this whole group. They've spent so much time together they've started to believe what they say to each other, that it's OK to do what they are doing. Unbelievable, huh? Sometimes nothing changes until you bring in an outside influence, unfortunately. I've never been gutsy enough to do the lawsuit thing, but I've worked for some pretty unhealthy organizations myself.
  • HBmom brings up another valid direction in her post (to me anyway), culture of the workplace. If said activity is condoned in an odd sense, it is encouraging such bully behavior, or insensitivity. If no one ever directly complains, many won't give much weight of "this" problem. Sometimes just by your letting your boss, as as HB said, his boss know how inappropriate and hurtful their behavior is, they might not know there really is a problem.

    As was also stated here. We don't know the inter personal dynamics you had with you're co-workers before your injury. You too might have shared in 'good natured' (to you guys) banter, and they are just continuing to behave that way while you are no longer seeing their humor? Just thoughts.

    If you try a law suit without exhausting all other venues, most lawyers won't take the case, as it is still deemed resolvable at the local level. I do like the response earlier too about turning it around on them. What are their weaknesses? I got tired of a bully as a kid, and one day I just had enough and hauled off on him. I didn't know I had it in me, kicked his butt but good! He never bothered another kid on that bus! (G) Only you can give bullies strength!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • If you're considering that as an option, you don't want to do anything that could be used in court to imply that you found the comments amusing or interacted with others in the same way.
  • You can't file a lawsuit that no one did anything if they didn't know about it. But you can call your HR dept and report your direct managers actions and the actions of the team. It is HORRIBLE. What are they teenagers?

  • Unfortunately these situations don't usually resolve well. I would go to HR and explain what is happening. The best they can do is have a meeting of your coworkers but then you become the bad guy.

    If you are tough enough you can confront a group of them. THat usually works better than one at a time. You can try telling them that this is hurting you and ask why they are doing this.

  • I have worked in HR for several years and had a few thoughts for you, as well.

    If these comments continue to bother you and your direct supervisor is not addressing your expressed complaint(s) with your fellow co-workers, I would document the time and date(s) of your discussion(s) with your supervisor. You can send a letter to your HR department and tell them exactly what has transpired and that it is making you feel very uncomfortable at work.

    As others have pointed out, there can be good from doing this as a circulated letter from HR usually zips the lips in situations like this. There is a down-side that you need to be aware of and that is having your fellow co-workers completely ignore you from the time they receive word that HR has been notified about their behavior towards you.

    If you have a co-worker or two that you are friendly with, another option would be to tell them that the comments being made towards you are getting really old and it's starting to make you mad. Sometimes they can spread the word to your other co-workers and it can be resolved without any supervisory interferences. You may be surprised with an apology or two, if your co-workers have been halfway decent up until this particular point in time.

    You can also call HR and request an employee handbook to see what your company policy is regarding harassment in the workplace. Do you have an Ethics Hotline by chance that you can call? If so, you can call that number after hours and remain anonymous.

    This is a snip from hrdirect.com. Remember, you do need to find out FIRST what your company guidelines are regarding harassment in the workplace. Taking legal action is last on your list, as you do have other options to explore and try before considering that.

    The legal definition of harassment...

    Harassment includes any physical or verbal conduct demonstrating hostility toward a person because of his or her age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or other “legally protected status.” The main categories of harassment are:

    Age harassment — demeaning comments or conduct based on a person’s age. It also can involve excluding an employee from certain activities because of age, or pressuring an employee to retire.

    Sexual harassment — characterized by unwanted sexual advances or sexually explicit words, pictures or gestures. It is also considered sexual harassment for a supervisor or manager to subject an employee to a positive or negative personnel action in exchange for accepting or refusing sexual advances. Sexual harassment at work can occur, as well, when a person is subjected to negative treatment on the basis of gender, including situations involving members of the same or opposite sex.

    Race/color harassment — most often occurs as offensive comments, epithets, jokes, slurs or gestures, or through symbolic objects or drawings. Even when the victim and harasser are the same race, or the victim is not a minority, race harassment is unlawful.

    Religious harassment — usually involves jokes, comments or other demeaning conduct based on a person’s affiliation with a particular religion or observance of religious holidays or dress. Coercing an employee to participate or not participate in religious activities also constitutes religious harassment.

    National origin harassment — derogatory words or conduct aimed at an individual’s nationality, ancestry, foreign name, accent, appearance or culture.

    Disability harassment — occurs when an individual is subject to comments, ridicule or other demeaning conduct because of a “perceived or actual disability.” Harassment can occur in person, in writing, by telephone (voice or text messaging), by fax, via the Internet (e-mail or instant messaging) or through any other means of communication. Harassment can be physical, verbal or visual.

    Examples of verbal harassment include but are not limited to:
    Unwelcome comments
    Negative stereotyping
    Any other words and conduct that demean, stigmatize, intimidate, or single out a person because of his or her sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or other legally protected status

    Examples of physical or visual harassment include but are not limited to:
    Unwelcome physical contact
    Invading someone’s physical space
    Damaging personal property
    Offensive gestures
    Possession or display of derogatory pictures or other graphic materials
    Any other offensive or demeaning act directed at someone because of his or her sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or other legally protected status.

    Harassment claims also can arise from e-mail and Internet activity conducted at work (a reason why you need a policy that prohibits employees from accessing, downloading, viewing or sending inappropriate text or graphics).

    Be aware, too, of a new trend being reported by companies around the country — harassment by a workplace bully. Office bullying can take different forms, including intimidation, humiliation, aggressive behavior, sabotage and verbal abuse. In addition to addressing issues surrounding diversity and sexual harassment at work, take steps to curb bullying, too.

    Keep us posted, please. I really hope things can be worked out for you.

    Take good care,

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    And as what was stated by some members, this is not an item for a lawsuit, but something to be addressed by the HR department at your job.

    That said, I can tell you that many times this will be so difficult to get accomplished. Mostly because it becomes a he said, they said, your opinion against others, etc. Unless you have documented proof, (ie video, vocal tapes, witnesses) it becomes almost impossible to push forward.

    In my own situation, when anyone would question WNY I had a special chair, or WHY I had different hours or worked from home, or WHY I needed to take breaks from sitting at the computer, I would just turn to them and tell them that I would gladly change places with them. I would exchange my weakened spine for their healthy bodies. I would say in a stern by direct tone. Most of the time, I would get apologizes and never have that same approach from people again.

    Today, as I am working part time as a wine consultant, the young (22-27 year old) kid me about being the old man, crippled, cant bend, etc. I just laugh it off and look them in the face and say
    WAIT, yout time will come.

    Overall, I guess I have over time taken a very hard shell. Not much like this bothers me.

    Still, in a work environment, no one should be subject to harassment of any kind.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Hi Will,
    Is it possible that your co-workers are joking around with you in an effort to make you feel less awkward about your situation? Is it possible that they knew that you would feel self consciece (sp?) about the way that you walk & rather than try to totally ignore it,they make a joke, so that you will know that you are still considered "one of them". That's probably how I would take it, but everybody is different.
  • Hey there...sorry you are still struggling with your back. It's not easy.

    Anyhow, I know you are hurt.
    I don't recommend joking back because this angle never works. I guess you have to let these people know that you don't like their jokes. Not sure how to do that but that's the first plan. You need to give your boss more time. Perhaps he's not avoiding you but in general people are lousy with conflict.

    Give him another chance. If he doesn't sit with you, then go to HR. Tell HR that you tried reaching out to your boss about how to approach it and he hasn't sat with you.

    The other thing is I know you are probably not in a joking mood because I'm sure you are in quite a lot of pain. I just wish people would realize that not everything is a joke.
  • Hello all. I have been in and out of the hospital since I posted, sorry I haven't been able to update.

    I sent the following email out to ALL of my fellow employees. I haven't been back since I sent it, but I am sure this has taken care of it. You would have to be a moron to say something now :puzzled:

    At the beginning of the year, I had a major surgery on my spine. Unfortunately, it did not go as planned, and I have been left with some side-effects of that. Some of these are visible, and some are not. At the present moment, I ask that you respect my wish that I really would like to not talk about it.

    I also realize that I don’t walk “normal”. I would like to ask a personal favor that nobody reminds me of that fact, and to just treat me normally. I know that it isn’t meant to be disrespectful, but I would just like to be treated like none of this is going on.

    I am available to talk about ANYthing other than that

    Thank you
    I will let you know how it goes. Thank you all for taking the time to write back to me.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Hi Will

    I hope this e-mail makes people realise what you are going through and how you felt about their cruel comments. For those who carry on, it isn't your fault but their lack of compassion.
    I was born with a disability and have often heard this comment, but as I got older I remind myself 'at least I can walk'

    I hope your stay in hospital has helpful and you will be back at work soon, and people treat you with the respect you deserve.

    Good Luck


    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • So sorry to hear you were in and out of the hospital. I hope you are feeling much better now? Gentle *HUG*

    As to your e-mail. Well written, and right to the point. No finger pointing, no guilt, just matter of fact. I hope that much if not all of their nonsense stops now, as work alone is stressful when we hurt. Please let us know if it helped, as others may be in a similar boat and could learn from you if it works. :) By the way, bravo on your wording!!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I applaude your solution and I hope that your coworkers are mature enough to understand that by doing it this way they look like morons if they do not follow through.

    I'm not a big one for lawsuits, seems no one ever makes out but the lawyers :p (hope they don't sue me for that!) But at least you have set the "tone" so to speak. It will be up to them to behave themselves and not act worse then some 1st graders.

    As I've always had a slightly odd voice due to an injury as a child, and I tend to "walk funny" and have for years... always being happy that I Could walk!
    I've been sensitive to remarks people make (ohhh, trying to talk sexy for the bossman? is one of the more mild... the message left behind on my voicemail saying I sounded like a 900 # has been saved... but I know i won't ever do anything about it (heh, like my back).

    Take care, feel better and hope things look up for you when you get back to work :)

Sign In or Register to comment.