Brief Description: My workplace does not consider an employee’s need for time off from work to deal with emergency situations and the various intersections that are influencing their lives. Instead, we get our hours cut and are told to ‘toughen up’.
At my workplace, many of the employees, including myself, are hesitant to take time off work, because our hours are cut as a result of doing so. We are told that we are not allowed to call-in or take many days off in advance, and this is a huge barrier for my coworkers and myself. When I was faced with an emergency situation in my personal life, I needed my workplace to accommodate to my needs by allowing me to take time off to take care of my family and myself. Unfortunately, the consequence of doing so was getting my hours cut for 2 weeks. I tried to open up to my boss about what was going on, hoping it would help her understand why I needed the time off, but I was dismissed and told to “toughen up and deal with it”. This is a barrier in my employees and my life as it puts our mental health at risk knowing our finances will be seriously jeopardized if we are in need of days off.
The environment and culture at my workplace is supportive of the medical model as it is putting the blame onto me by suggesting I need to ‘toughen up’ rather than supporting my need to tend to other emergency situations as well as my self-care (Lee, Module 3, 2017). It is interesting to note that when someone at work has a physical disability or is physically injured, both of which are visible disabilities, the management team is sympathetic towards the individual and willing to accommodate their needs. However, when employees, like myself, hope my boss will understand when I have an emergency personal situation, I am not provided with the same sympathy and accommodations. This is reflective of what David Richards from The Hidden City podcast stated, because he also states people are generally more sympathetic of those with a physical disability (Hidden City, 2007).
My workplace does not use a disability-justice framework when understanding the various intersections in my life. The environment can be improved through adopting and practicing the principles of the disability-justice framework. This includes challenging the dominant discourses around accessibility and viewing all social justice issues as intrinsically linked (Lee, Module 3, 2017). Furthermore, my work environment can be more accommodating by simply validating the ways in which my various intersections affect my life and create a safe place for myself and the other employees to feel comfortable taking time off work without the fear of getting hours cut as a consequence. Responding unsympathetically and dismissive of my choice to share my struggles suggests the issue is within myself and is something I should deal with independently. As Mingus states, “With disability justice, we want to move away from the ‘myth of independence,’ that everyone can and should be able to do everything on their own” (Mingus, 2011), which doing so would help foster an inclusive environment at work and increase the chances of optimized work performance on my behalf.
Toronto is celebrated for it’s diversity and inclusivity and I have seen many steps taken towards making this a total reality, however, there is a long way to go. Perhaps the adoption of certain labour laws that require all businesses to adopt a disability-justice framework will bridge the very apparent gaps. It could be that the reactions I receive from my boss is a reflection of the lack of knowledge and awareness that is spread to workforces and demonstrates a clear need for a disability-justice framework to ensure the safety of all employees – whether it be visible disability, or a non-visible disability.
By: Amandeep Singh
Mingus, M. “Changing the Framework: Disability Justice. How our communities can move beyond access to wholeness” https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/changing-the-framework-disability-justice/
Purdon, N. (2007). Hidden city. CBC Radio-Canada. Podcast retrieved from
Ryerson University. (2017). Module 3: Tools for analysis. In CINT 907: Disability issues: Winter 2017. Retrieved from