My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: CT
Hello, I am in a bit of a predicament here, and was hoping someone had some advice.
I have been off work since November 09. FMLA first, then approved leave afterwards. Have been on STD, now LTD.
Still employed, but not yet working.
I have hearing damage that impairs my ability to do my job on the phones at a call center. The damage is currently assumed to be caused by the sub-par equipment there.
An excess of volume, as well as major distortion, electronic sounds, and feedback caused my problem.
This caused nerve damage between my brain and ears. (called acoustic shock syndrome)
I say assumed, because one final test will prove extent and frequencies that caused the damage. The test took 3 months to approve via insurance, and there was another 2 month waiting period for it to happen.
The final test, mapping my nerves and damage happens next month.
The hearing aids address volume, but none of the other issues I suffer from, or causes thereof.
I now wear a type of hearing aid, and is required not only for work, but every day life.
Last Thursday afternoon, I get a call from my LTD company, informing me that I am to return to work saturday (Jul 3rd)
I would go through a short week, then 2 weeks of retraining, then be thrown back into the mix full force. Only then would I be able to asses if I am able to do the job again.
I spoke with both the LTD company, and my employer, regarding what may or may not happen, and was very explicit about my concerns regarding the issues with the equipment. I was advised the only accommodation that would be made to me would be work would ALLOW me to wear my hearing aids.
I was very clear and specific that there are other issues that need to be addressed as well. I relayed that to both the LTD company and my employer.
My doctors as well have big concerns about the distortion, feedback, etc and say I would be risking further permanent damage even with my hearing aids if not addressed. One doctor says I can have no more than limited access to the equipment, the other says I cannot use it altogether.
Work will not take that into account. I was advised to contact an attorney.
This was all on a holiday weekend, and there was no one to even call until tuesday.
I did so on Tuesday. The attorney said that I have a right to the "Interactive process" in which we can go over the specifics of the issue, the return to work plan, and any accommodations that can be made.
I requested this meeting. My employer said they would call me back. I get a voicemail later that evening from my employer stating that they do not have time for this type of thing, and I need to be in work the next day for my regular shift.
They were quite obviously laughing in the voicemail as well, like it's some kind of joke to them.
I woke up this morning, and started making phone calls. I spoke with my LTD company again, who informed me I have no right to request any type of "Interactive process".
I went over it with him, and what the attorney informed me of. He said the attorney was wrong, and I need to be at work.
I affirmed that it was my right, and I insist that this happen. I firmly believe that a reasonable accommodation can be made, that will allow this return to work possible. He said he'd call back.
I also today placed calls to my employer, none of which were returned.
I got another voicemail this evening, this time from a higher up at the LTD company. Stating that I have no right to the Interactive process, that I need to go to work regardless what I've been told, and if I do not, they will terminate my benefits with them.
What do I do now? I will call the attorney again in the morning, but I need another opinion.
I already fully intend to sue for the damage I have to my ears once it is mapped. (the reason for the mapping taking so long, is it is VERY costly, think thousands + for the testing, took a lot to get it approved)
In the months leading up to this, I had started developing a hearing issue, and multiple times both I and my Dr's requested accommodations, fully making the company aware of the situation. Every request was denied.
Until it got to a point where the Dr's immediately pulled me from work.
At which point the extent of the damage was fully realized, and I was told it was permanent and irreversible.
The cause of my issue was stated for background, but is not the crux of the problem. What I need advice on is the insistence I return, refusal of the Interactive process, and threat of both termination of my benefits and employment, if I do not comply.
What the hell do I do now? Can they deny this meeting where I can address the issue with them, not via my LTD company? It seems to me that the LTD company and employer are communicating often and I feel quite left out of the loop.