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kaki_clam

Serious Assistance Needed!

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The company I work for often will provide us with a lunch as a "reward" for meeting service levels. My supervisor and the call center director both refuse to provide me with a Gluten Free option. They state it is "my choice" to participate in the meal. (The meal is usually pizza). I went on line and found on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission web page that they cannot discriminate against me for having a genetic disorder. They are still standing behind the "my choice" theory..... I called the EEOC, and they stated that I am correct, they need to provide a gluten-free option for me and sent me the paperwork to file a complaint, which I promptly filled out, but have not yet mailed back.

Now, here comes the hard part. My job is a union job, and I am chief steward in the office. When I notified my local union office of my intent to file the complaint, I was told that I represent the workers and that the company doesn't have to provide the meals. They stated as a representative of the union, I need to do what is best for all the workers.

So here's the deal...what do I do? If I file, I will have to step down as chief steward, a job function I love, I will face losing my job, as I am sure they will come up with some way to fire me that won't be retaliation for filing the complaint. But, at the same time, I am tired of being the only one singled out. I did contact the companies Ethic's hotline, and was told that the meals the company provide are both "organic" and gluten free...ummmmmm....since when is wheat based pizza crust gluten free. I did tell them that organic doesn't equal gluten free, and they still stand by the fact that it does.

Anyone got any ideas? Anyone been in a similar situation? Should I mail in the paperwork and get ready to fight?

Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to provide!

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Provide them with all the information you've collected. State that you will do nothing this time in order to give them the opportunity to review everything. Get signatures of receipt. Make sure that they know that next time you will be filing an official complaint and contacting a lawyer (realizing that this may end up canceling lunch for everybody forever....).

Or, provide them with all the information and let it go. They can choose to do the right thing or not. And they will know which they are choosing.

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I vote for you to tear up those papers. Mainly because the company is doing something nice for it's employees. Fewer companies are doing anything like this.

If you file the complaint, they will be forced to provide you with gluten free options. Nice but then someone else will want something else accommodated and the company will stop doing the lunches.

The company is providing pizza. Eat it or not. I'd be happy I worked for a company who even thinks of doing something extra.

I think of it as attending some one's birthday party. I would not throw a fit that the cake wasn't gluten free. I'd just be happy I was invited.

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I take it this is an incentive or bonus for reaching a particular goal? Is it for your own personal goal or is it a group thing? Is it just something nice the company does or is it considered a benefit? If it's a nice gesture I wouldn't fight it. If it's a group goal and reward they should offer you a gluten-free alternative but I'm not sure I'd fight it. If it's a benefit or something specific to your achievement and a reward just given to you then I would ask for a non-food based option. Maybe they would consider offering a movie pass or a gift certificate instead? It could be the same value as the pizza.

My company often provides us lunch and treats. Quite often actually. Usually I can't, and don't, participate but I'm happy to see my co-workers enjoy their pizza and icecream. I keep snacks in my desk for such occasions so I can participate socially but not eat what they're having.

However I did request a special meal at the holiday party since it was a sit down meal and special occasion and that was not an issue (though they had no idea what I was talking about, I called the restaurant myself).

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You are not serious, are you?!?! It's pizza for goodness sake. It's a nice gesture. So you can't eat it. Get over it. If you had high choletrol or were lactose intolerant you couldn't eat it either. Do you get a gluten free paycheck? Be thankful for that and move on. You've wasted enough of your time and energy and your company's money worrying about pizza.

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I agree with CeliacMom. I think sometimes, we just take ourselves too seriously. Should they stop being jerky and try to accomodate you because they're decent human beings? Yeah, but that is obviously not going to happen.

You've got a great job that you love and they are really doing something nice by having a little celebration.

Keep some Lara Bars in your desk for the next time they have pizza.

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You are not serious, are you?!?!

I read kaki's post as trying to decide where to draw her lines and take her stands. The example may be just pizza, but the bigger issue is really the one we all face every day. When is enough, enough? When are you being considerate of others and when are you being walked on? When is appropriate to put aside your desire to be included for the good of the rest of the group?

I'm interested to hear how others respond.

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I have to say that I think you probably should not file. Though technically you have a 'legitimate' - that is legal - claim (only if you have a medical diagnosis of Celiac disease) I would have to say that as a gesture of goodwill it would be better to not file. Also as a shop steward myself, I think I would agree that it would be in the best interest of your fellow bargaining unit members to not file since the likely outcome will be for the company to pull the 'reward' entirely.

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It is unfair that you are missing out on the reward that the rest of your team is getting. I would be annoyed too. But life is unfair, it is as simple as that.

This isn't worth risking a job that you love over. Save your energy for bigger battles.

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I must say I am surprised by the responses I got here....as I read back through my primary post, I realized perhaps I didn't provide enough info about these lunches the company provides. They always have a vegetarian option, and diabetics can get salads or what not. I called the place where they get the food from, and they advised me that since all the food is prepared on one counter they could not guarantee to not cross contaminate, so I cannot eat there. I feel like this is personal, me against the company due to my association with the union ( we have not yet been unionized for a year, our first contract went into effect in January)...when everyone at work was doing the adkins diet, other options were provided....it just seems to me, that I, personally, am being singled out.

I kind of feel like a complainer...I do understand the concept of what is best for the majority, I guess it isn't they way I am looking at it though, I am just wondering when is enough, enough?

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Can they just order a side salad from the pizza place? It seems like this can be solved with a few suggestions here or there. A veggie or fruit tray?

Don't risk losing a job you like in this economy! As union steward you see how some things are solved with some give and take. If ordering a salad with the pizza is so costly, then you still have incentive rewards, but not as often. Your co workers have some vegatables (hopefully a healthier lunch).

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Why don't you try giving them some suggestions for gluten free items that they could provide for you? Or, examples of restaurants or take out places that can provide gluten free items for you and other items for the rest and give examples of those. It is possible that they just don't know what they are doing when it comes to providing gluten free options. That would certainly be a more friendly way to start addressing the problem.

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I wouldn't file, either. I can't really see a positive outcome from it.

I'm in a grad program that provides a lot of free food to us, including free lunch at weekly seminars. The lunches are either pizza or sandwiches, with available sides of pretzels and cookies. I have monthly meetings for my research fellowship program. The catered dinners are almost always pasta, pizza, or soy sauce-covered Asian food. Both programs are funded by federal government grants, so I could probably make a stink if I wanted to. But I don't. It's nice that the food is provided for people. I'm the only one with dietary issues that I know of, plus there's the issue of not wanting to eat food that I can't control (eating in a restaurant when I can talk directly to the server is one thing, eating catered food that was ordered by someone else is completely different). It's easier for me to quietly bring my own food and eat what I can that is provided (salads without croutons, bottled drinks).

Maybe you could find a local pizzeria that is celiac-friendly and see if you can negotiate a deal with them. Maybe your company would be willing to meet you halfway on such a thing if they don't have to do the legwork to find the safe food.

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When my company provides lunch for everyone, I'll often expense $5 for the cost of the lunch I had to bring myself. My managers are fine with this arrangement, and I'd prefer to bring my own than trust them to provide a guaranteed gluten-free lunch.

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I think this boils down to how much do you love your job versus the gripe of being discriminated against via the bonus. If you have leverage in your job, and at times like these who does, like you say it's only going to count against you in the long run or short run if they're real b*****s.

I don't agree with it but is it worth all the aggro, let's face it if they think organic = gluten free then would you really trust the stuff they give you?? I doubt I would and worst case, you go through all the trouble of enforcing your rights, and then the gluten-free food they give you sets off a reaction...can you imagine having to complain about that on top of all the trouble getting the meal.

Just my humble opinion, good luck with the decision. :)

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I must say I am surprised by the responses I got here....as I read back through my primary post, I realized perhaps I didn't provide enough info about these lunches the company provides. They always have a vegetarian option, and diabetics can get salads or what not. I called the place where they get the food from, and they advised me that since all the food is prepared on one counter they could not guarantee to not cross contaminate, so I cannot eat there. I feel like this is personal, me against the company due to my association with the union ( we have not yet been unionized for a year, our first contract went into effect in January)...when everyone at work was doing the adkins diet, other options were provided....it just seems to me, that I, personally, am being singled out.

I kind of feel like a complainer...I do understand the concept of what is best for the majority, I guess it isn't they way I am looking at it though, I am just wondering when is enough, enough?

Kaki -

It is entirely possible it is a subtle dig at you. First question I have is still: Are you medically diagnosed by a physician as having celiac disease? If so, given the fact that they accomodate diabetic diets they would be required under law to provide a reasonable accomodation. However given the situation and some of the other comments (e.g. would you really trust the food, etc) is this a battle you want to fight? I assume that as a steward and the fact that you are newly organized you probably were personally instrumental and involved in organizing, possibly from a labor background. Given all of these things is it really the battle you should be picking now? If it was me I think that I would make sure that you have made your request in writing (email works) and gotten a response via email, then just file it for the time being.

I don't know you or your situation at all, but it almost sounds to me like you are (understandably) on the defensive at the moment and you may be reacting to a situation that is best left alone for a while. You may wind up burning your bridges on both sides of the fence.

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When my company provides lunch for everyone, I'll often expense $5 for the cost of the lunch I had to bring myself. My managers are fine with this arrangement, and I'd prefer to bring my own than trust them to provide a guaranteed gluten-free lunch.

This sounds like an excellent compromise. Basically in the end if you were to do this you'd be having the company pay for your lunch anyways and you wouldn't risk cross contamination.

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Kaki -

It is entirely possible it is a subtle dig at you. First question I have is still: Are you medically diagnosed by a physician as having celiac disease? If so, given the fact that they accomodate diabetic diets they would be required under law to provide a reasonable accomodation. However given the situation and some of the other comments (e.g. would you really trust the food, etc) is this a battle you want to fight? I assume that as a steward and the fact that you are newly organized you probably were personally instrumental and involved in organizing, possibly from a labor background. Given all of these things is it really the battle you should be picking now? If it was me I think that I would make sure that you have made your request in writing (email works) and gotten a response via email, then just file it for the time being.

I don't know you or your situation at all, but it almost sounds to me like you are (understandably) on the defensive at the moment and you may be reacting to a situation that is best left alone for a while. You may wind up burning your bridges on both sides of the fence.

Yes, I have been medically diagnosed with Celiac. And I do have it in writing that they will not provide an option for me stating in my bosses own words "because I don't have to"

When I started this post, I decided to go with the majority in my decision making process, and it looks like I will be leaving it alone for now.

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I think you're making the right choice. Don't get me wrong; I TOTALLY understand the desire to stick it to your boss and say "haha, no you really DO have to", but this isn't the time to waste any good will you've got with ... most anyone. There may well come a time in your job that you really do have to be a hard-@@@ about something, and if you only take that approach when it's a truly big deal (as opposed to a personal big deal), they'll take you more seriously. (Unfortunately, I've learned this from experience. :/ )

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If it were me, I would print out the Celiac pamphlet that is available with the basic information about what the disease is, and it explains that Celiacs cannot eat *anything with wheat barley or rye". And I would give it to the person who orders the pizza, and another one to the git who said "it's organic, so you can eat it"

Most non-Celiacs with half a brain realize that the flour used to make the pizza crust is made from wheat, (not all though, I'm sure we've all met at least one who has no clue!) regardless of it's organic status, we still can't eat it.

Then I would remind the person who orders the food of when everyone was on Atkins and appropriate foods were provided, and say that "yanno, the early phases of Atkins are naturally gluten free, and we could all eat it and be quite healthy and happy"

Or, they could find a gluten free pizza joint to order from. There are more and more opening up.

It's entirely rude for them to provide foods for diabetics, and not for you, and to not even bother to try ot understand your disease. They obviously don't try to tell a diabetic to go ahead and just eat the birthday cake, so what if you go into a coma! Why must they insist that you eat the pizza or go hungry? That's just rude, and personally I'd be looking for a different job. Or, open up a gluten free pizza joint. And then don't accept any orders from them in future. ;)

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Just carrying it one step further (although I think we've pretty much beat this one to death), what if you did go ahead with the complaint? Then follows the ugly meetings, hearings, or however your company would proceed. Bad feelings ensue all around, your boss and your company resent being pulled into a nasty fight, you resent their attitude, etc. etc. etc. After the dust settles, what have you won? Maybe they'll provide lunch for you, maybe they stop providing lunch for everyone. Regardless of the outcome, there's ill will on both sides, and really nobody wins. You may win the battle, but at what cost?

Some gluten-free food for thought. :)

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Just carrying it one step further (although I think we've pretty much beat this one to death), what if you did go ahead with the complaint? Then follows the ugly meetings, hearings, or however your company would proceed. Bad feelings ensue all around, your boss and your company resent being pulled into a nasty fight, you resent their attitude, etc. etc. etc. After the dust settles, what have you won? Maybe they'll provide lunch for you, maybe they stop providing lunch for everyone. Regardless of the outcome, there's ill will on both sides, and really nobody wins. You may win the battle, but at what cost?

Some gluten-free food for thought. :)

sometimes winning is all that matters....resentment is all ready in full swing at the office, this won't change things..I am sure the outcome will be no lunch for anyone, which is fine with most people i guess....too bad the company i work for is not as supportive as my co-workers....There are a few people in the office who make a point of not eating the lunch in protest of lunches not being made available to everyone...i didn't ask them to, they just stand with me, which is great....as per the advice of many of you, i am going to let it go....see if the union can help, and if not...well, perhaps I will make a gluten free meal for myself and my co-workers who chose to stand with me....I guess the part that bothers me the most is their whole "choice" attitude. I really can't think of anyone who would "choose" to have Celiac...that is what set me off more than the lunch thing.

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I have to agree with the others. Let it go and keep your job. It's an incentive program. If lunches were part of your salary or you had to travel for work all the time, it would be different.

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I know I'm new to this, but I just bring my own food. Because I am a military wife there are lots of spouse socials that I go to, and military events, and I just eat on my own. Yeah, it sucks to not be able to eat at the Military Ball but it's so much easier to just eat before I go. Plus, then I am not paranoid about cross contamination or food safety or anything else. Maybe bring your own Amy's pizza and heat that up and then you can say "HEY! I got pizza too, guys!".

I agree, it's a bad idea to lose a job in this economy, especially one that you obviously like. Unfortunately some people think this is something we CHOOSE instead of something we are dealt.

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I think not making a stink is the way to go. I wouldn't eat the gluten-free option they gave me because I couldn't be sure how it was prepared, etc. Sounds like the stuff they serve isn't very healthy for anyone. Maybe they are trying to get rid of everyone by feeding them high cholesterol & sodium. Might want to point that out. ;)

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