Monday, November 30, 2009

Add war to the list of taboo topics at work

Dear Diversity Diva: I’m in the military reserves, something everybody at my job knows because of the changes to my work schedule from time to time. One of my supervisors makes anti-war comments all the time that really bother me. How should I handle this? Signed, Worked-Up Weekend Soldier

Dear Worked-Up: Sex, money and religion have always been topics best not to discuss in inappropriate places. Add the U.S. involvement in military action to that list.

Increasingly, everyone knows a loved one or an acquaintance going overseas to serve. People also have strong opinions about issues involving safety and, yes, money. And war and military action, for some, is nothing more than a topic reduced to budgetary considerations of taxpayer money.

If the supervisor has done something that makes you feel that he or she is discriminating against you on the basis of your military service — for example, doesn’t allow your seniority to accrue when you are away for training or makes you use your earned vacation for your time away for reservist duty — then you should immediately notify your human resources department. That would be a violation of federal law.

If that’s not the case, I would have a friendly talk with the supervisor and make clear that you would appreciate keeping this topic off the discussion track.

As is the case with most strong, casually expressed opinions, the supervisor may not be aware of the impact. But a supervisor should be smart enough to hear you very clearly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Share health issues

People with health problems sometimes struggle with how much to share with their employer.

For example, an older woman who works on her feet all day and gets swollen, painful ankles may be afraid to ask her boss for a chair to sit on. And because she can’t afford to take time off, she may not get the doctor’s excuse that might require reasonable accommodation.

It’s a tricky issue of diversity in that she stands out from her younger co-workers who don’t have this problem. But an employee can’t afford to be more concerned about an employer’s reaction than his or her own health or potential disability.

Once a doctor has given a recommendation, then sitting down with the boss to come up with a job adjustment may be in order.