Story by


Date published

8 February 2019

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How it all started

Hello, my name is Charlotte and I have a condition called Cerebral Palsy and am a full time wheelchair user. However this did not stop me from achieving my goal for the summer which was to work at a summer camp in the USA in the summer of 2018. Whilst I enjoyed my time there and made some amazing memories I was also subject to discrimination and this is my story of how it happened. Monday the 18th of June 2018 It’s roughly around 9am I’m on my laptop looking at emails when my boss and another member of staff enter the room and closed the door. My boss then started by saying “How’s it going?”, “Good” I replied and she then said it seems that you have been asking members of staff for help. “What have you been asking for help for?” so I said well my friend showed my how to make the shower warm as I couldn’t figure it out and she said “Is this the first time you’ve had a shower since being here?!” to which I replied “God no! and I then told how I had asked for assistance with showering after the staff swim more for ease than anything else not necessarily because I couldn’t do it myself. I explained that it was a one off. She then proceeded to tell me that if I needed help I was to ask her and that “if staff were helping me then they weren’t focusing on their campers” I agreed. She then told me that if my needs had changed then I need to tell her because it may be a case that they can’t accommodate me anymore. She then ended the conversation with “If we have to have another conversation like this again it’s going to be a very different kind of conversation”. All the time that this conversation between my boss and I was going on her assistant was taking notes and then I had to sign the report afterwards. Then they left. This conversation made me so upset that I rang my parents crying down the phone at them as I thought I’d done something wrong and that she was going to fire me! The reason I thought that I had done wrong was because it was written on the report that we had talked about “how independent I was pre-camp” and this made me feel like what I had told my boss in strict confidence was now being used against me. I asked my parents to speak to her for me to see if they could interpret what had happened better than me but after speaking to my boss the next day I decided that wasn’t a good idea because she had told me that her speaking to my parents was unprofessional and if I had a problem she’d rather it come from me so I decided to leave it at that as I didn’t want to make her anymore upset with me than she already was. A couple of days after this conversation had taken place my boss came up to me in the dinning hall and said in a patronising tone “Remember when staff are helping you they are not focusing on their campers” and I just let it go over my head. Then she said it a second time a few days later. An important thing to note here is that when she was telling me this I hadn’t been asking staff for help at all! Then she said it again a few days later, this time I questioned her on it and said “but there are no campers here” to which she replied “right but when there are” and I walked off and we left it at that. Tuesday 26th June 2018 It’s the afternoon and I’m in the office doing some photocopying for my boss when one of the domestic staff comes in and says “can you come into the bosses office please?” When I get in there I hand her the photo copings and she starts the conversation by saying “you walked past a line of staff while looking indecent” I explained to her that it is difficult for me hold up my towel as well as wheel myself back to my room I also explained how I don’t remember this happening as from my recollections of what I think happened she had left it a good week maybe longer before calling me out on it which I felt put me at an unfair advantage when trying to explain to her what had happened. Also she said to me that “you are lucky that campers weren’t here when this happened because of claims of sexual harassment within the workplace.” We solved the problem by camp supplying me with an extra towel and her telling me to buy myself a dressing gown online which I did. There was also a report written up on this situation which mentioned again about how independent I said I was at the start of camp. The night of the 22nd of July at dinner my boss and her assistant started whispering to each other about how they had heard some news not about a camper but about a member of staff. I was sitting right next to my boss and as they were talking her assistant kept looking at me as if it was me they were talking about and she wanted some sort of reaction out of me. This put me on edge but I calmed myself down by telling myself they are probably whispering because me and two other international staff sit on this table and they don’t want us to find out who they are talking about as we could then go and tell the person that they were talking about them which is a breach of policy. After a while I think her associate realised I could hear what they were talking about because they started talking in sign language so that I couldn’t understand them. Then later that night when returning to my room after getting my medication I saw my bosses assistant and the look she gave me just put me even more on edge the only way I can describe it is like a death glare. All night that night I was on edge thinking that I had done something wrong lets just say it was a very long night. Monday 23rd July 2018 I was already on edge about what had happened the previous night but decided not to worry about it because if I had done something wrong at some point I would be told. Next minute my bosses assistant comes out of the bosses office with the biggest grin on her face and asked me to go into her office. I slowly went in. My boss started the conversation with “I’ve had some very upsetting news that you have been sharing confidential information.” I was shocked I never remember doing this! I told her that I don’t remember doing this then I asked “Who told you?” with the hope that by her telling me who told her it would jog my memory about a recent conversation I may have had with that person. To this she replied “that's not important” leading me to believe that it was her assistant director who has shared this information to her as I could tell she didn’t like me much from the beginning. So as I couldn’t give her any more information on what had happened she proceeded to tell me that “because of this and everything else that has happened we can’t have you working here anymore.” I was speechless. After this she let me make a phone call home I decided to call my dad because I knew that if I called my mum I would breakdown and I didn’t want to make a big scene. As I didn’t know the number off by heart I had go back to my room to get my phone she said to me that she was going to walk with me to make sure that I didn’t talk to anybody or tell them whats happened. Once back in the office she let me call my dad but before I did she turned to me and said in a very patronising tone “why are you calling your dad? Is it because you know he’s not going to tell you off for something you did wrong?!” The whole time I was on the phone she was listening to the conversation so I felt that I couldn’t really talk to him properly. After finishing the conversation with my dad I had to call the employer. I thought that I would have to explain to them what had happened but she had already rung them and told them everything so they set me up in a hotel for the night and then I had to go pack. The bosses sent one of her other members of staff to watch me pack and then I had to exit out of a side door so that nobody could see me leave and with that we drove to the hotel. Once at the hotel I called my mum and told her everything and she suggested for me to come home the next day so I did.

What I did to try to overcome it

Once I had arrived back home me and my mum sat down together and wrote out an email explaining how upset I was by what had happened and also how unfair my mum and I both thought it all was. This email was sent to my boss, the agency that I went through to get hired at the camp, my bosses boss and the company that own the camp I went to. I received an apology letter through the post from the agency I got hired through and I received a reply from my boss saying “What I did was protocol”. However neither my bosses boss or the company who own the camp I went to replied to the email. Since sending out the email I’ve also posted a blog that I have written about my experience on my Facebook and also on my Twitter. I tagged the agency that I went through to get hired in my tweet however I have not heard anything back from them

How it made me feel

This whole situation really knocked my confidence I felt like I couldn’t ask for help for things even after I got home because I felt like people would think I was over playing my disability. It also made me feel really stupid that I could let something like this happen to me however I have since realised that none of this was my fault, it also made me really angry that this sort of thing was allowed to happen. I also felt very nervous to leave the house when I first got home as I knew that people would be asking about my experience and I didn’t quite know how to describe it.

The outcome

While nothing has been changed in terms of the attitudes of the people involved etc. I have decided that I can turn this negative story into something positive by sharing my story online so that other people who have been through a similar situation can feel like they are not alone and that there is people out there who understand what it’s like and hopefully my story will not only raise awareness of disability discrimination but also encourage others to speak out.

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Janice 29 May 2019

I think you kept it together really well. How old was the boss she sounds about 5, how dare she treat u this way. She has serious issues that need looking at. Should she be mixing with children, i would have to let parents know, I would want that information because if she can treat u this way without any empathy and conscious, this makes me question how she would treat my child. Its like a child looking after children. She knew she was wrong or she wouldn't of asked u to leave so no one could see. U where very courageous, id have gone home the first time she opened her mouth, or I would of said please can u whisper something and bite her ear off. However I know we shouldn't do things like that but she shouldn't either, all is fair in luv an war. Could u not confide in some friend there and get them on your side, I'd of shouted it from the roof tops so everyone knew. U conducted yourself excellent Wish you'd of bin there I'd of sorted it for u. Take care Very courageous

Rob 1 April 2019

Charlotte, I’m so sorry to hear about this terrible experience. Well done for having the courage to tell your story. Experiences, good and bad, make us better people in the long run and it sounds that it is the damp’s loss not yours. Hopefully, you’ll have a better boss on your next adventure and will be well prepared for anything that happens :)

Claireangela 27 March 2019

I've been discriminated by our own government, and those governments beforehand. I started working when I was 17. I was a nursing auxiliary. I did that for 3 years until I got married and started my family. When my 4 children were in school I started working in a psychiatric hospital. I did nursing for two years, but they cut my hours so I would get up and be up the hospital pharmacy and cleaned that, dashed back got kids off to school. Rush back and make beds at hospital. Home at lunch time and did my own house work. Pick up kids from school, made tea and then dash back up the hospital to wash up. And on Saturday and Sunday night, I'd be a nurse again and do two twelve hour shifts. Just working in that environment wasn't without sexual harassment from male members of staff. I did that routine for four years. I then did nursing in the community, but was there starting to have a lot of problems with my back. So I went for a lighter job and ran a little bakery shop until I just couldn't work any more. I eventually had to claim DLA.. Finally I am approaching pension age.. Only to find out that I couldn't claim my state pension because they had changed the age to 65. I just couldn't believe it. Just about the same time they started changing the benefits system to PIP I havnt been called up for assessment yet. But I have read plenty about the system and it corrupt strategies to ensure that disabled people don't get any benefits. I see discrimination riddled in that system. So, going back to my state pension, which I worked very hard for. I realise that basically the government has stolen my state pension . I have lost £15.000 so far and will lose a further £25.000. The thing is it is only women who have to wait for up to seven years, and men an extra year. We were not informed in enough time to make any kind of plans. So now the government are being taken to court in June to explain them selves. Women are not treated equally. And they were not allowed to have a private pension back then. Finally, it used to be even if a woman never worked out side of the house, she still got a pension. Later on you had to have over ten contributions. I just read that if you have only ten contributions you get Zero Pension. That again will be affecting women. So do I feel discriminated against, YES I DO thanks for reading

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