It was late spring, early summer 2010 when my mom heard about the high end of the Autism Spectrum, PDD-NOS and higher functioning autism and other connected diagnoses, she immediately thought of me, particularly me as a child and a teenager, and sent me a text message. Previous posts have covered my process of self discovery, so I won't repeat myself here. I WILL say that what I saw in this diagnosis (though it was hard to get an accurate one, they kept on wanting to say I was Bipolar, which I knew wasn't true) was the chance to not only improve my life in general by having a better understanding of how my brain works, but more importantly as a way to get some accommodations to help me in my work situation I saw it as a chance to get a break, to get some understanding from management, and a way to get some relief. My therapist and psychiatrist made it very clear that I did have Asperger's but that I mostly had it under control due to my own self-awareness, determination, and basic maturity. However, the job environment in general and the attacks on me specifically pushed all of my Aspie buttons, as it were. I would not need accommodations for my life in general, but for my own sanity I did need them for this job.
So, following the instructions from Human Resources, in August of 2010 my therapist sent off a letter explaining the situation and I waited. And waited. And they decided they need clarification (though they didn't. they were just stonewalling), and I waited more. Then in September I was called into the office by Maria Roddy, accused of wearing a skirt that was too short (it wasn't), improperly touched by Maria Roddy on the knee, and basically bullied and harassed. And docked four hours of pay. In response to this, I filed a complaint against Maria Roddy for harassment. Of course, the city hired outside investigator did not decide in my favor. In December I was told I would for the second time not get my merit increase because of insubordination, the incident with the porn kid, and that I was generally a horrible person--nothing I had actually accomplished over the last year was mentioned. This was of course on a Thursday night, the last hour of my work day, and the last day of my work week. This sent me into a such a tailspin that I finally had to go to my GP doctor and get asked to put on stress leave. When she saw that my blood pressure was 150/92 and that I broke down completely in her office, she gave it to me.
It was December 17th, and I was on medical leave for the next week. The following week was Christmas and New Years, and I along with most staff already had that time off. My hope was that in two weeks, I could get myself together enough to function and figure out what to do next.
On December 26th, 2010, I got an official letter from the city saying they were bringing charges of insubordination against me seriously enough that I would be punished by two days of no pay--all because of what had happened over three months ago in September and for which I had already been punished with 4 hours of no pay. The letter was sent by the city manager Artie Fields on the urging of Elizabeth Martinez, and he had the gall to include the line "After listening to Elizabeth Martinez, I agree and find against you". Really? Without talking to me?
This sent me into perhaps the worse state I'd been in since this whole thing had started. It was so egregiously unfair I could not handle it. I am ever grateful my mother, sister, and boyfriend were all there when I opened the letter. Still, at that point I went back to my doctor and got her to give me two more weeks of stress leave. I still had very high blood pressure, my asthma had been acting up very badly, and I was at the absolute end of my rope. So she did, saying I could come back to work on January 16th, with very simple and doable accommodations that echoed the ones my Therapist had asked for back in August of 2010. I got a call on January 8th, the city said they could not accommodate me, and I could not go back to work. They didn't tell me why, but as they actually could have accommodated me and were doing this as part of their continual effort to get me to resign, they chose to not even bother trying to explain.
For the sake of brevity I will say that I tried filing for worker's comp and long term disability and was denied for technical reasons. I tried to meet with the city and get back to work, I was stonewalled by the city's HR department (and my doctor didn't help much) on all fronts. I figured very early that the City was stonewalling me to try to get me to give up and resign and get nothing. Small of them, and it didn't work. I NEVER give up. The months between January and the end of May passed with great anxiety and uncertainty, and I didn't work at all. That was the one blessing. At least I wasn't back in the pit of misery.
I did, however, go to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to file for discrimination on the basis of a disability and after a long phone interview (always hard for me!), they found my situation had enough merit to start a formal investigation. This was the only thing I felt positive about the whole time, though I know DFEH investigations take a long time, because finally someone who could do something about it believed me. I knew that A) I was pushing the right buttons and B) the city of Salinas was corrupt all the way up and I would get no help at all from anyone when the acting interim HR director of the City of Salinas, Kathryn Sakahara, sent an email to me by accident (it was meant for someone else in HR) that called me 'unbelievable' and a 'piece of work'. So much for HR being unbiased, right? Although that email hurt, it was a weapon I could used because it showed clear bias.
My last paycheck (after my vacation time was all used up) came in February and I lived on my savings as all of this was going on through May. I went back and forth with the city, often having to wait weeks for their reply, and by May I was seriously sweating my financial situation. My family helped where they could, but they didn't have much either. I'd been denied worker's comp and long term disability and I right on the verge of going to my apartment complex to try and break my lease (they charge you about 3K to break a lease and it would have been a legal hassle I was not looking forward to) because I was simply and completely out of money. Thanks to being debt free my expenses each month were minimal except for rent. How to pay rent?
So, when May 2011 started I was a basket case. At this point I had come up with a plan for my future and decided what I wanted to do with my life and where to go back to school. But how to pay the rent in the meantime?
I shall leave part three here but up next--The Happy Ending!