Many companies get away with it. As will this one.
In late October 2021, I was let go from, what I thought was, the start of a dream job. It probably won’t be the last time, either.
When you are someone on the autism spectrum, you have to expect a certain level of discrimination both in workplaces and in general social settings in life.
Before I get into what happened, this is in no way intended to sound like I am searching for pity. This is just me telling my story, to show you guys, our readers that this is still something that happens in 2021 – a supposedly progressive time in western society. And it’s worth noting that I am a mere one out of 78% of autistic adults who can’t find work that supports us with reasonable adjustments. The Office of National Statistics conducted many studies concluding this, as displayed on the National Autistic Society website in February 2021.
I’m not minimizing my experience as anything less than traumatising, because it was. But there’s something to be learned from it, and it’s all about putting things into perspective. Coping with trauma through humour is no stranger to me. You know, the classic ‘you gotta laugh or else you’ll cry!’ tactic. It stops people from constantly patronising you or telling you how ‘sorry they are’ or some other infantilising tone of pity they may give you.
So, I graduated from university and started working at a chain restaurant, where everyone was great to me, I was great at the job, but I often had real bad sensory overload (common autistic trait) in the workplace, drunken shouting people, horrendously loud music, skin picking and trying to force eye contact with customers who look down on you and your role and treat you like shit on their shoe.
After 5 or so months, I figured I needed to search for post-grad work, my sole priority at this point was making rent and bills a priority as well as saving what I could but I’d built up some confidence now.
One night as I scrolled through the popular job search site indeed, I quickly found an interesting job in social media management, all the requirements of which matched my qualifications and experience. The next day I was surprisingly offered an interview, and within a few days, I handed in my notice to my previous job, and by the Monday I was working in Exeter. It all happened so quickly.
It’s worth noting there were a few red flags from the off. The company-which-shall-not-be-named were paying people unfairly and illegally, they had me travel to Exeter to suddenly decide to cancel on me last minute, they struggled to keep employees and claimed I was ‘self-employed’ (they were a tax-dodging company, so it seems) and they were very rude to people and in their general manner, just plain snobby. I stuck out like sore thumb, but I just put it down to me being ‘different’ and didn’t think much else about it.
I was good at my job, but one day got sensory overload and took myself to the bathroom to have a good ‘ol cry-it-out. I was sure to make sure no-one saw, and knew it was just anxiety talking. But was sent home that day as they didn’t want to deal with it.
I’d explained to my colleague, who was a personal assistant to my employer that I was on the spectrum, in a flippant conversation about her partner and his neurodivergent tendencies.
I came back on the Monday, and through until Thursday worked as normal, but was told on that Thursday afternoon that they thought I was great, but was told that this colleague and my boss had ‘been talking about me’ and they just didn’t have the training time for ‘someone with my baggage.’ I was shocked and hurt, but not at all surprised. I’d said to my partner the night before that I could see it coming.
It’s been about a month to this date actually and my mental health is in poor shape, my confidence low and the job search seems to be getting me nowhere.
The point of this post is yes, person with a disability or not, shit happens, and you move on. But it’s still something that happens and companies *always* get away with it.
Too often there’s not much we can do about it due to the fact that these conversations happen verbally, so where’s the ‘proof’? Not to mention the fact that being the employee living with a disability, they’re unlikely to hear me out in comparison to the CEO of a company.
Another barrier encountered, not enough bridges to connect the dots to justice. But that’s what Barriers to Bridges magazine is all about, bringing awareness and facts together and cultivating it into well-branded activism speech.
This blog post was written by an anonymous contributor – to highlight a common yet dehumanizing situation often swept under the capitalism carpet.