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Harrassment At Work?

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I have no idea how I'm supposed to be anymore. My office has gone from just ordering lots of pizza and bagels for the staff (which I was fine with, I just couldn't eat them obviously), to actually teasing me repeatedly about not being able to eat with them. It's not like I've been whining or trying to deprive them of anything, but they do know I'm a celiac and I can't eat it. They laugh and joke around (?) and say, "aw come on, just this once, it won't hurt to eat it!" and honestly I can't tell if it's a joke or not. Just today someone was looking into other options to bring in for office food, and sent out a list of all-bread options, saying "and Carolyn can eat ice chips." I heard one of my managers laughing loudly at it. I just can't tell anymore what I'm supposed to do

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Don't let the comments slide. I would probably respond with something like:

"If you can't take a serious illness as an adult, I suggest you just refrain from talking."

(Snarkier responses like "Do you hide a person's epi-pen before giving them peanuts they're allergic too?" or "What do you mock cancer patients about? or "Wow, I thought I'd moved on out of third grade by now." might be inappropriate for the workplace. :P)

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Isn't this harrassment? Do you work with adults? They sound like third graders... People can be very rude to put it mildly... I certainly would go to the highest manangement available & explain your eating habits & why do must do this lifestyle. Maybe just maybe they don't understand what health issues can happen if you eat gluten... Then again they just may not care... If the latter is the case I would look for a new job with mature adults.....

And I agree with Tarnalberry maybe give it right back to them & see what happens....

For me I think this is total harrassment .... sorry you have to put up with idiots!!!!

blessings

mamaw

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Do you have an HR department?

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I have no idea how I'm supposed to be anymore. My office has gone from just ordering lots of pizza and bagels for the staff (which I was fine with, I just couldn't eat them obviously), to actually teasing me repeatedly about not being able to eat with them. It's not like I've been whining or trying to deprive them of anything, but they do know I'm a celiac and I can't eat it. They laugh and joke around (?) and say, "aw come on, just this once, it won't hurt to eat it!" and honestly I can't tell if it's a joke or not. Just today someone was looking into other options to bring in for office food, and sent out a list of all-bread options, saying "and Carolyn can eat ice chips." I heard one of my managers laughing loudly at it. I just can't tell anymore what I'm supposed to do

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I would start by talking to your boss or manager, whichever is appropriate. Explain that you're starting to feel isolated and harassed. But specify you don't want any special treatment--just that you need help explaining to the others what their comments are doing. Your boss or manager (or other coworkers) would have better insight, since they know the people in question.

I wouldn't start by making them responsible for solving the situation, though. That's an easy way to alienate your coworkers, plus all of us with this have to learn to fight our own battles. However, if you can't get it to improve substantially by standing up for yourself (with perhaps some boss guidance), you should probably remind them how it's protected under the ADA, things about hostile work place environments, etc., but I'd put that way off.

By no means should you try to find another job. You'd just be running from the problem. This is one area where their attitudes are going to have to adjust to fit you--you've got both common decency and the law on your side.

The truth is, they probably simply don't realize it's hurting you, or how much of your time is spent with people commenting on your illness. I would suggest things like, "I know you all like to discuss this, but understand I end up discussing it all the time, constantly, with different people. If you want to know more about why I can't eat--and why it can be painful for you to even make comments--I'm happy to bring in some celiac literature, but in the meantime, I'd appreciate it if you cut down on the teasing."

Remember--in conflict resolution--use "I" statements! It really does work. "I need this, I would appreciate that" not "You need to, You are being, etc" One provokes empathy, the other battle mode.

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Thanks, Tiffany. I think at least one person won't do it again now. I talked to him and he was very apologetic. Now if only the main offender would stop! But I suppose a lot of offices have one of those.. :rolleyes: I just couldn't take feeling ganged up on! It's stressful enough in here..

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You can certainly take the paths that are mentioned but I don't see how that will always help your perception. Or you could laugh about it with them - By entering into the same mode, you disarm them and eventually it won't be funny because there is no more fun to be made. Someone has to be the brunt and if you take that away, it then becomes boring. Embracing disarms. That's just an alternative tact that has worked in the past - it doesn't mean you become a doormat to it but listen, laugh a little with it and soon enough it should be yesterdays news.

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I'm so sorry for you! Yes this is harassment.

I think that they are awful people for acting like third grade bullies, but... it's now time for you take control of the situation and learn some assertiveness so this doesn't happen again. I am direct and a no B.S. type of person, and I can tell you that would not happen to me in any situation because people know I wouldn't put up with it. I'm not blaming you, but I hope that you can find some techniques in assertiveness to assure that you don't get bullied again wherever you go.

In the future if you get in a situation like this, it's important to be assertive in the beginning. Don't be sarcastic be matter of fact. "If I eat that, I will end up in the hospital." For people like that I would just say it's a severe allergy and that will shut people up. Liken it to peanuts.

I would go to the boss and talk to him or her. If it's a big company I would go to the HR department and anybody else that needs to know. Put it in writing as well.

Explain that what you have is a serious allergy and it can make you very ill if you eat those things. I would liken it to cancer. I would tell the boss "If someone had cancer and the employees were making fun of them, would that be acceptable?" I would write down the things that have been said and emailed, and say "I feel like this workplace is becoming hostile and I need the fact that I have a serious illness to be respected. I am not asking for special treatment. I am asking that the jokes, comments, and sarcasm stop." You can use examples on here and say that you know other people with this disease who have been 97 pounds and nearly died, etc. Impress on him or her the seriousness of this disease.

I am not one for lawsuits. I think that they are way overused, however you are being harassed, and if you don't get action on this, I would consult some lawyers. Keep records of everything said and done and try to find those emails sent out. If the bosses don't take this seriously, and the harassment continues, I think you would have a case. It would be a total pain, but you would get compensated eventually. Of course if you file a lawsuit, you most likely will have to get another job, because it won't be pleasant.

You know, when I first got diagnosed, a friend of mine emailed me and said "I read about it online. It doesn't sount that bad." I was pissed and I nipped that talk in the bud. I emailed her and told her exactly how bad this disease is. I also told her how I have lost my freedom, how sick I was, and all the other symptoms that were not GI related, the fact that many of us get cancer, and all the other gory details about this disease. She sent me a huge apology and we have been fine ever since. She's been very supportive. Anybody who doesnt' take this seriously around me gets an earful. Not mean. Not mad. Just the facts. If they are respectful they get the short version, but disrespect me and my disease and you're gonna hear it from me.

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You can certainly take the paths that are mentioned but I don't see how that will always help your perception. Or you could laugh about it with them - By entering into the same mode, you disarm them and eventually it won't be funny because there is no more fun to be made. Someone has to be the brunt and if you take that away, it then becomes boring. Embracing disarms. That's just an alternative tact that has worked in the past - it doesn't mean you become a doormat to it but listen, laugh a little with it and soon enough it should be yesterdays news.

Trouble is, I've embraced it and laughed with them in the past, and it's just escalated. In other words, I think it did pave the way to becoming a doormat. Turning the other cheek just egged them on somehow, maybe I'm just not a good enough actor. Anyway, I can't go on being a doormat, however I got here. But I do still appreciate the idea! I think that tactic may just work better for some than others? Maybe my experience of getting out from an abusive relationship in the past is why I find it so hard to just let nastiness slide anymore. Probably why it rattles me too!

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I wanted to add, don't be afraid to embellish a little. They don't need to know your exact medical history. When my friend was making light of it I told her "Now I have to face the possibility of testing for other diseases like cancer because untreated celiac causes that and much more." That shut her up quickly.

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Thank you, Sandsurfgirl! That's just what I needed to hear. Sometimes I just think I'm going crazy, like overreacting, because of course that's how these people harassing me seem to feel. I really do think they have no concept of this disease, though I've tried explaining it in the past

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I don't know your exact people in your office so this may not work but: I worked in an office where we teased each other trying not to be mean. If you tell a couple of the more friendly employees about it, maybe they will help shush the others. Like they tell middle school kids : if evryone refuses to participate with the bully, its not fun. But going to HR is always an option that's what they are thee for.

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Wow, thanks everyone for the responses! I only just now saw most of them, haha. Yeah, our office is small, but a part of a larger company. We do have one HR manager here, but she mainly handles paperwork

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That comment about mocking cancer patients was a good parallel. I mean, you don't laugh at someone in a wheelchair whenever you take the stairs.

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While out to dinner one night, my friend's husband thought he was being clever and when he ordered said "and make sure you make mine with extra gluten" then began laughing like the moron he is. When I ordered I asked the server to make sure to bring my friend's husband a side order of brains and empathy since he seemed to be starving for both...the server almost fell over laughing as did my husband...the other side of the table was pretty quiet but in the many times since then that we have been together he has certainly been more respectful.

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Wow, thanks everyone for the responses! I only just now saw most of them, haha. Yeah, our office is small, but a part of a larger company. We do have one HR manager here, but she mainly handles paperwork

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While out to dinner one night, my friend's husband thought he was being clever and when he ordered said "and make sure you make mine with extra gluten" then began laughing like the moron he is. When I ordered I asked the server to make sure to bring my friend's husband a side order of brains and empathy since he seemed to be starving for both...the server almost fell over laughing as did my husband...the other side of the table was pretty quiet but in the many times since then that we have been together he has certainly been more respectful.

good for you! What an #@*(^%$%$ jerk! Like anybody would choose to do this on purpose!! Yes, I just love having to ask 20 questions every time I eat out and make a spectacle of myself at the dinner table. I've done this because it's fun. Right! Arrrgh

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While out to dinner one night, my friend's husband thought he was being clever and when he ordered said "and make sure you make mine with extra gluten" then began laughing like the moron he is. When I ordered I asked the server to make sure to bring my friend's husband a side order of brains and empathy since he seemed to be starving for both...the server almost fell over laughing as did my husband...the other side of the table was pretty quiet but in the many times since then that we have been together he has certainly been more respectful.

I love that!

good for you! What an #@*(^%$%$ jerk! Like anybody would choose to do this on purpose!! Yes, I just love having to ask 20 questions every time I eat out and make a spectacle of myself at the dinner table. I've done this because it's fun. Right! Arrrgh

I haven't gone out to eat because I don't think it will be fun or relaxing. Have had Godfathers pizza twice & that was relaxing. Went on Spring Break & had to eat lunch at Wendy's & that was stressful but now I know how to order there (say bad wheat allergy even the ones that don't speak English had been taught that). & potato with chili on it is one of my favorites. I am getting irratiated with my mom's friend who was a science teacher so she knows alot. She keeps telling my mom its no big deal & I don't have to be very careful. I call it the "it's OK, just take the croutons off" belief. After getting that off my chest: Let us know how it goes at work.

Forgot to add: My hub is a HR professional. If he were home now, I would ask him for advice. If this doesn't seem to go over with your boss, let me know. He might know some choice rulings or phrases to put a little scare into them. I know he would suggest you just talk to the boss or co-workers first. It is important to show you tried to resolve it & brought it to the attention of your boss.

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I love that!

I haven't gone out to eat because I don't think it will be fun or relaxing. Have had Godfathers pizza twice & that was relaxing. Went on Spring Break & had to eat lunch at Wendy's & that was stressful but now I know how to order there (say bad wheat allergy even the ones that don't speak English had been taught that). & potato with chili on it is one of my favorites. I am getting irratiated with my mom's friend who was a science teacher so she knows alot. She keeps telling my mom its no big deal & I don't have to be very careful. I call it the "it's OK, just take the croutons off" belief. After getting that off my chest: Let us know how it goes at work.

Forgot to add: My hub is a HR professional. If he were home now, I would ask him for advice. If this doesn't seem to go over with your boss, let me know. He might know some choice rulings or phrases to put a little scare into them. I know he would suggest you just talk to the boss or co-workers first. It is important to show you tried to resolve it & brought it to the attention of your boss.

Are you kidding me? A science teacher and she thinks she knows about medicine?????? What an idiot. Yeah, because she had to do what, get a bachelor's in some sort of science and take a test for her credential? Last time I checked that doesn't make you a doctor. I hope your mom doesn't listen to her.

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The same manager who teases and laughs a lot also gave me a very, very hard time when I was first trying to get diagnosed and didn't yet know what was going on. Here I really did believe I might have cancer or was about to die, and he was pressuring me for a better explanation of why I was calling in sick. I was terrified, for my own life and for my job! Since my diagnosis, he's still been very weird about it, even though I tried to inundate him with information. I honestly think he believes it's all in my head, or I'm part of some conspiracy quack theory that his doctor doesn't support.

Oh no - is it your own manager who is the main bully/teaser? Shame on him! Go over his head asap. I've had my share of weird bosses too. I had one years ago who flip flopped between being supportive and a total jerk about my RA (way before celiac diagnosis). I ended up leaving but the new me wouldn't do that. I'd give him a good what for and then go to his boss and complain and remind them I had the ADA on my side. I think I've reached a point in my life with the addition of celiac where I won't take that kind of non-support from anyone. I think something happens to us where we become more assertive because we have to be. Gluten equals pain and death for us. It's not 'all in our heads'!

I like what the others have suggested. I have often equated celiac to diabetes since many people are familiar with it. Equated it with a peanut allergy works too.

I hate to say but most people rarely understand something unless they have experienced it first hand or someone close to them has experienced it.

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I am teased alot because of my gluten free, dairy free, colitis, IBD-C diet. It's usually something like, "oh you probably don't want any of these yummy snacks... you probably want to sit there are eat boring pretzels (glutino).

I was just sitting and thinking about the medical/diet issues of the staff here. There are approximately 60 staff at this elementary school. I am the only one with a gluten intolerance, but there are 3 other with dairy intolerance, 2 diabetics, one with a severe peanut allergy, one with a severe coconut allergy, 3 morbidly obese, 4 with severe back problems, 1 other with colitis, 1 just resigned because of her health (Lyme disease and more), several with husbands or children with diabetes, IBS, Chrons, and several with arthritis.

I think next time someone is rude to me because of what I can or can't eat, I might ask... oh do you think so and so should eat some peanut butter, or do you think so and so should be sucking back candy (with diabetes).

It might be interesting for everyone to figure out what the "disease ratio" is of their workmates and post it here.

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How frustrating! It

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What you need to do is pick out the person who seems to be most into bugging you about this, and, in front of a lot of people, stand up to him. Make him uncomfortable. And then let it go and pretend that everything is okay. But it will continue unless you stand up for yourself; if you go to HR and there is an "edict" about your eating habits, then they will still make fun of you, but just they will be a bit more sneaky about you.

You have bullies in your workplace. The best way to deal with a bully is to not take their b.s.

But I would say too, as someone with celiac, that having to deal with my own health issues has been difficult and I've also been the target of bullies at work - probably from my intermittent responses to things, my mood swings, etc. So you might be picking up on something else within your work place too - but honestly, just throw it back at them. I like the suggestion about the epi-pen. Or heck, say something like "actually, I don't have celiac, but I can't eat those things because I have <insert horrid disease> here, but I didn't want everyone to know about it".

Trouble is, I've embraced it and laughed with them in the past, and it's just escalated. In other words, I think it did pave the way to becoming a doormat. Turning the other cheek just egged them on somehow, maybe I'm just not a good enough actor. Anyway, I can't go on being a doormat, however I got here. But I do still appreciate the idea! I think that tactic may just work better for some than others? Maybe my experience of getting out from an abusive relationship in the past is why I find it so hard to just let nastiness slide anymore. Probably why it rattles me too!

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