Celiac Disease

How Does Your Boss Feel About Gluten-Free You?

celiac and workplace discriminationHappy 2015, gluten haters! I do hope this year is like, one thousand times better than 2014, but hey, let’s see.

One thing happened that worries me about my cockamamie optimism, and that was a letter from a new reader who has a pretty serious issue post-celiac diagnosis. You know, other than that, “Oh hells, I’ve got celiac,” thing. An issue that I’ve never had, but I’m guessing some of you have, if not exactly on this level. This whole, “Don’t we need good people protecting us” level. On a “Oh, hey, this seems like a HUGE mistake” level. Let me just quote this man who has bravely served the U.S. of A.:

“I am a USAF pilot being “forced out” of military service because I was candid in describing the insidious effects of 2 years of unmanaged and grossly mis-managed celiac disease from 2009-2011. Like you, my gut took a turn for the worse after eating some “bad food”– for me it happened while dinning with some of my host nation counterparts during a deployment in 2009. I started modifying my diet the summer of 2010 and was able to master the GF lifestyle the spring of 2014 to a point where I have actually gained weight and was able to tan. Unfortunately, my attempts to educate my military healthcare providers on the importance of being gluten free with celiac disease, to include the measures required, has left me labeled as a “gluten nut”. Despite incident free flying during my declining health and subsequent recovery, my positive performance reports, letters of recommendation from my peers, and both my commander’s and my desire to continue serving our country as an officer and a special operations instructor pilot, my military physicians (general practitioners not specialist) “feel” that I am “done”. This is contrary to the opinion of the civilian specialists (MD types) I have spoken to. Any guidance would be much appreciated…”

Yeah, this is upsetting. And while I pointed this reader in the direction of the great Dr. Fasano, I found myself stumped as to any real world advice he could use right this second. That’s where I’m hoping you all come in. After all, I know some of you have had problems, and some of those problems happen in the workplace. And I’m just guessing that perhaps you’ve used the ADA to help you out, or other methods that perhaps could be useful here.

So let’s hear it, guys. Horrible boss? Horrible HR system? What the heck did you guys do to still get paid, while celiac?

13 thoughts on “How Does Your Boss Feel About Gluten-Free You?

  1. I worked in the restaurant industry for several years and when I had successfully completed all kitchen training etc. I was still not seen as an asset because of my condition(celiacs) but rather a hindrance because I could not taste test for quality (and my abilities to smell and see differences in product was not deemed sufficient). I even had a large number of patrons who came to speak to me about special dishes that could be prepared for lots of allergy needs. I focused more on the people than the food and began training and developing staff. This created an interest in HR for me. When I expressed interest in a main office position learning more about policies and staff development, I was told to forget about it….I left and went back to school for a masters in HR. I have since learned that it was likely discrimination, but I have moved on and upward and it is that company’s loss and a reason they will never be as big as they would like to. It’s unfortunate, but I think you have to ask yourself if it is worth it to you mentally and for your career to just file a complaint and move on.

  2. My boss became suspicios while we were out dining with industry counterparts. Working in the medical field, she became pervy based on my orders over the weeklong engagement. Somehow it was brought up in a “water cooler” conversation that I’m GF. To my surprise, she now makes a constant effort to ensure we dine out at GF friendly establishments during work obligations. She went as far as purchasing a GF cookbook and GF apple cake for my Christmas present. I’m quite lucky in this respect and hope future work relationships are comparable. Where some would find this intrusive, I genuinely appreciate the thought.

    Having served myself, I can only image dealing with this while in the military. Showing up to a course like Ranger or Sapper and declaring you are GF?! Ha! You would have a gamut of nicknames. “Drink water” or “take a few Motrin” they’d say. Truth is, I think people are unaware of the seriousness behind this ailment. Not to sound political, but it’s not helping that people are adopting GF as the new diet trend. I try to educate when this issue is brought up in hopes someone will take somthing away.

  3. It is hard to believe that these things happen. Well-managed coeliac disease really is only life minus gluten, and certainly no sensible reason to chuck people out of the workplace! Naturally, any practical advice would be useless coming from me, as I reside on a different continent (where employers are prohibited by law from firing employees over health concerns btw), but I really do hope this man’s superiors get a solid kick up the backside for adding assault to injury. Seriously bad form.

    Well done you (April) for publishing his letter!

  4. Sadly, my boss doesn’t even know that I am gluten-free. This means packing veggies and nuts on days when I know there is going to be a pizza party. More should be said, but I don’t exactly expect the people I work with to “get it” if you know what I mean. Sounds like you are having a similar issue. Is there any research you can find to show them/educate them about the GF diet and your “illness”? (I hate referring to it as an illness. Just because you can’t eat a certain food doesn’t mean you have to be sick.) There is a lot of research out there. I myself wrote a research paper while doing my undergrad at PSU about it. Or could you get a second opinion that counts or make an appeal? Doctors can be so uneducated about diets and health and how they are linked, I am sorry to say that this only mildly surprises me. Hope this helps a little.


  5. ADA will not help you with the military. They have very strict standards that they adhere to (whether we like it or not). My question comes in whether they are being “medically retired” or being asked to resign. You can’t be forced to resign until/unless you are passed over for promotion. Being “medically retired” is a different story. They can fight this, if they choose, but will be labeled forever more (again, the military dislikes non-conformity). It may not be what you want to hear, but welcome to the military. I’d fight for a military retirement.

  6. Wow, I think the military would be tough – even in the corporate world, putting up with the sneers can be difficult, especially as the hierarchy is everything and you don’t want to be seen as ‘picky’ when dining out with partners!

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