How a veteran can approach management about accommodations
I’m a veteran who’s been lucky enough to come home in one slightly damaged piece, and get a job in my field (technology). I’m smart and productive. The problem is that my injuries have given me serious back problems, so I cannot sit still for very long. I know that I might qualify for special treatment under disability laws, but I don’t want to be treated as special because I am a vet or disabled. How can I talk to my employer about this?
First of all, get over the idea that you are not owed whatever accommodation you need and deserve. Not just because you’re a vet or a partially disabled person, but because good employers should have the sense to treat good employees well if they want them to stay, and to stay productive. Meet with your boss and the human resources officer. Explain that your injuries have left you with specific needs. Be as precise as you can be about the accommodations that are necessary, both infrastructural (chair, desk, computer station) and those that have to do with work time and habits. If you need time off for doctor or physical therapy appointments, work out a schedule so you can make up the time and/or the work.
If it’s a matter of needing to get up and walk around every 20 minutes or to have a place to lie down and do exercises, ask what kind of documentation your boss would need for the files so other employees don’t think you’re getting some special hall pass. If your needs are temporary, say so. But, if this is what you will always need, then be very clear that it’s not just a short-run accommodation. And don’t be afraid to play the wounded-warrior card. You earned it.
There are laws to protect you. Be sure to put your requests and situation in writing, so if there is any attempt to target you, you’ll have some documentation on your side. If you get pushback, consult an attorney who specializes in disability work. I hope you won’t need to.