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Julia's Story Accommodating an Employee With Schizophrenia

October 1, 1997
Related Topics: Disabilities, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Featured Article
Julia, 37, is a full-time pharmacist in a busy Alabama hospital. She received her schizophrenia diagnosis about 14 years ago, and once was out of work ill for seven months. When she returned to the work world soon after passage of the ADA, her first interviewer called her back after the interview and asked why she had been unemployed for seven months. When she pointed out that he hadn't made an offer yet so the question really wasn't appropriate, he replied, "Then I guess you don't want the job," and hung up. Julia then decided to be straightforward with subsequent interviewers. Most employers lost interest right away when she told them she has a mental illness that's a disability.

Eventually she interviewed with her present supervisor, himself a pharmacist. He knew her supervisors at her previous jobs and knew her reputation as a worker. He agreed during the hiring process to reasonable accommodation in principle without stipulating what the accommodation would be until after her three months' probation. Julia is one of only two night-shift pharmacists in the hospital, which runs a number of specialized intensive care units that keep the pharmacy busy. She works seven nights in a row and then has seven nights off, trading weeks with the other night pharmacist. Her accommodation is that she has an extra week off every nine to 12 months to adjust her medications. She never calls in sick and never misses work, and she gives one to two months' notice when she needs the extra week off.

Julia enjoys her work and is proud she finished pharmacy school after receiving her diagnosis. "[My job] keeps my skills fine-tuned. Just me and my technician are there all night, which I like. I get uncomfortable when the day shift comes in." Her accommodation has been successful throughout her five-year employment with this hospital. "Most people turned me away. My present boss was more receptive."

Workforce, October 1997, Vol. 76, No. 10, p. 32.

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