Monday, March 10, 2008

A Letter to My Hospice Employer

Dear ____________,

It is with regret and disappointment that I am writing to officially resign my position as a per diem Registered Nurse at ___________. Apropos of our recent telephone conversation, I now feel that, in the interest of my health, I can no longer safely work at _________ under the current circumstances.

As you may recall my mentioning previously, at my interview I discussed with ______ my concerns regarding the use of strong chemical cleaning products at ___________, and I shared with him my diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). ______ reassured me that ____________ was very interested in “going green” (his words) and he indicated quite clearly that my input vis-a-vis this process would be greatly appreciated. Subsequently, you and I had several long conversations about this subject, and I gave you a plethora of printed materials outlining the health risks of chemical cleaners and relatively inexpensive ways to replace them with natural alternatives.

Following our last face to face conversation prior to your vacation, I was happy to see that the laundry detergent being used had been changed to a “free and clear” alternative, however dryer strips continued to show up in the laundry room despite my frequent requests for them to be removed.

In terms of other products, I have made repeated requests for ____________ to supply unscented hand soap, dish soap, and hand sanitizer, and I added these requests to various shopping lists, leaving additional notes that I could assist in finding the most economically reasonable alternatives. Insofar as this situation goes, I was informed a number of times that volunteers do the shopping and that what they purchase for use at ____________ cannot be completely controlled, an unfortunate sentiment that you reiterated on the phone the other day.

On the first page of The ___________ Employee handbook, it is made exceedingly clear that __________ honors the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act and that all reasonable accommodations will be made for individuals with disabilities protected under the ADA. For your information, MCS is indeed a diagnosis supported by the ADA, and it is my strong feeling that _____________has failed to make reasonable accommodations on my behalf, a clear violation of the ADA guidelines.

At this point, I would like to elucidate my point further via the illustration of a potential scenario. Suppose that _____________ hired a new office manager who either walks with a cane, uses a walker, or is perhaps wheelchair-bound. Or perhaps a current office employee became disabled while employed by ______________ and was subsequently confined to a wheelchair. Due to the nature of this person’s very visible disability, I would venture a guess that no stone would be left unturned in order to accommodate this person’s disability since, a) that person’s disability would be clearly visible, and b) the legal ramifications of not accommodating that individual’s disability would be enormous and costly. (For reasons of this illustration, I suggest an office employee being disabled, as it is clear that a physical disability would preclude the hiring of a clinical employee due to the physical demands of the work.)

In my particular case, I have an “invisible” disability which, while it does not interfere with my performance of my role as a nurse, does indeed cause me mental and physiological distress while working at _____________. The chemicals in use at ____________ cause symptoms including confusion, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, headache, and dizziness, all of which are documented symptoms of MCS. So, putting two and two together, we can see several aspects of this situation very clearly:

1) I informed _____ of my condition at my interview and he reassured me that accommodations would be made.

2) I spoke with you about my symptoms several times and provided you with printed material to corroborate my complaints.

3) ___________'s Employee Handbook clearly states that reasonable accommodations will be made for persons with conditions covered under the ADA.

4) You have made it clear that the volunteers’ shopping habits simply cannot be controlled (even though they are all reasonable and intelligent individuals), thus accommodations of my medical needs simply cannot be promised.

5) The cost of replacing the chemical cleaners and fragranced products used by _____________would not be in any way financially prohibitive, yet there seems to be a failure of will on the part of _______________ management to make an effort in this regard.

6) A patient with lung cancer at ______________has suffered documented respiratory symptoms from use of chemical cleaners by staff.

7) I can longer safely work at ______________ due to this situation.

8) If my (or another employee’s) disability was “visible”, this letter would not need to be written.

Based upon my reading of the situation, I see no recourse but to tender my resignation to ____________, effective immediately. I would strongly advise _____________ to revisit its commitment to the ADA and avoid potential future legal recourse from employees who might see fit to take action against ___________ vis-a-vis violations of the ADA, something that I have no plans to do at this time, despite the fact that my case is quite clear.

Thank you for the opportunity to be of service at ____________, and I am deeply regretful that I am forced to resign my position due to circumstances clearly beyond my control and apparently beyond __________'s desire for right action.


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