Resolving Job Problems:
A Guide for A Person with A Disability
Identify Your Problem
Most employees face a job problem of some type during their career. It might be a
problem with the job duties, working conditions, co-workers or a supervisor. In addition
to these problems, an employee with a disability may need a workplace accommodation which
he or she may not know how to request or the employer may refuse. An employee with a
disability may also experience job discrimination or harassment from co-workers.
The following steps should assist you in identifying a job problem:
- Write out the problem in one or two sentences.
- Determine whether the problem is real or one of perception.
- Discuss the situation with a friend and request his or her opinion.
If you determine that the problem needs to be addressed, keep a record of what has
happened to date. For example, if the problem is disability-related harassment (jokes,
nasty comments, or abuse due to your disability), what exactly took place and when? Keep a
diary for a period of time to document what is going on. If the problem is discrimination
(a difference in treatment), try to find a comparative, meaning, someone in a similar
situation. How have you been treated in comparison to that person? Is there a reason for
the difference in treatment? If the problem is a failure to provide accommodation, did you
Your plan should have several steps, beginning with the least formal means possible for
resolution. Formal complaints may be necessary at some point, but informal resolution is
cheaper, quicker and less acrimonious.
It is important to remember, however, that you only have a short period of time to file
a union grievance or an administrative grievance (sometimes as short as a few working
days). If you decide to take either of those routes, check with your union steward or
personnel officer for time limitations.
If you decide to attempt an informal resolution and your problem involves another
person, either a co-worker or supervisor, the following steps can be taken:
- Arrange a face-to-face meeting. Tell him or her the reason for the meeting in advance.
- Focus on work-related issues. Identify the problem as you see it and make suggestions
for resolving the situation. Do not be aggressive or hostile. Give the person a chance to
explain his or her action.
- At the end of the meeting, thank the person and restate any agreement reached. Another
meeting may be necessary to resolve the situation, or you may need to take the problem to
a higher level.
Meeting With Your Supervisor
It may be more difficult (but more important as well) to resolve a problem with a
supervisor than a co-worker. Your supervisor has the authority to make important decisions
about your career. Be respectful and non-threatening when you speak to him or her.
Remember that you both want your job performance to be at the highest level possible. If
you need an accommodation or are negatively affected by co-worker harassment, you are not
performing at a peak level.
The following steps may be helpful in meeting with your supervisor:
- Prepare a memo in advance outlining your problem. Meet at your supervisor's convenience.
- State your perspective of the problem and listen to what your supervisor has to say.
Come up with a satisfactory means of resolving the problem.
- Come away from the meeting with either a proposed solution or a commitment to meet
If you are unable to resolve the problem at your supervisor's level, you may have to
take the issue to his or her manager or the chief executive officer. At each new level,
you should write a memo explaining the problem, describing the steps you have taken to
resolve it, and suggesting a means for final resolution.
If you need a modification to the way your work is done due to your disability, you
should identify several alternative accommodations and review your employers
reasonable accommodation procedure. For accommodation ideas, call the Job Accommodation
Network, at 1-800-JAN-PCEH.
If you are not familiar with your employer's reasonable accommodation procedure, ask
your supervisor, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Officer or Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) Coordinator (note that not all employers use these titles). If your
accommodation request is denied, ask your EEO Officer or Human Resources manager whether
you should file an internal complaint.
When Informal Efforts Don't Work
If these efforts are unsuccessful, you may want to consider the following formal
mechanisms to resolve job problems:
- For members of collective bargaining units, the union grievance procedure. Ask your
union steward for more information.
- For other employees, administrative policies may provide for grievances (such as the
Personnel Code for state employees). Ask the Human Resources Manager for further
- If you have been discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may file a
complaint internally with the EEO Officer or Human Resources Manager. If you don't know
who he or she is, ask your supervisor.
- Disability discrimination complaints can be filed externally with the Illinois
Department of Human Rights (DHR) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC). Charges must be filed within 180 days with DHR or 300 days with EEOC.
In conclusion, job problems are best resolved at an early stage. Once a problem begins
to bother you, use some of the suggestions in this brochure to resolve it.