Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

We Need You Not To Be Sick Just A Little Longer

I get sick to my stomach even typing the word “discrimination”.  Unfortunately, as a cancer survivor, cardiac patient, immune supressed, etc., you get the idea, I have had decades of exposure to the act of being turned just because.

As a child, I was short, a bit of a pudge, dressed kind of nerdy, okay so not much different forty years later, get off my back.  But in 1990 after completing my chemotherapy, I made a decision that it was time to start looking for a better job, one with benefits, and of course more income.

For a reason that baffles me today, I chose to work for an insurance company.  Well, I never really got to work for them.  There was all kinds of hoops that I had to jump through to get hired.  There were certifications and training, and lots of reading.  And for the first time as an applicant, they wanted me to undergo a physical.  I considered it an odd request for becoming a salesman, but went along with it.

Everything had been going well with my studies and I was getting ready to start getting my certification.  The physical went very well also, as I expected nothing less.  I was extremely attentive to my health once I was done with treatments.  So everything seemed to be pretty much in order.  And then the phone call came.

“Mr. Edelman.  Jim DeStefano here from Nationblech Insurance.  I just got off the phone with our office out in western Pennsylvania, and while you have been doing great with all the studies and tests, our office would be a lot more comfortable hiring you if you were in remission from your cancer a bit longer.”

It was one thing for me to get turned down for life insurance because I was considered too fresh of a risk, or health insurance because of pre-existing conditions.  After all, it was the 1990′s and what did our country care about insuring our sick in spite of the fact that is what insurance is for.  But without employment, I could not even afford to see a doctor even with insurance.

Since this post is about discrimination, spoiler alert.  I introduced Nationblech Insurance to the Americans With Disabilities Act which had only recently come into law, which prevents an employer from requiring a physical as a condition of hire.  In other words, I meet every qualification for the job, and as long as I am healthy with the physical, the job should be mine.  I took this company to the Pennsylvania Labor Commission where they were told to change their hiring practice immediately on the local level, and then long story short, pass it on to national.

Employment discrimination is not the only form of discrimination that I have faced.  Of course, I am damaged goods when it comes to any kind of health or life insurance as I am considered too much of a risk with all of my health issues.  I am treated differently by my employer as my absences for my frequent doctor appointments and occasional flareups, are considered an inconvenience.  Co-workers actually concern themselves and believe that I am treated more favorably, or that I am a burden on their work assignments.  There are more examples that I can give, but truth be told, I do not really give it much thought any more after two decades of being treated as if I were an inconvenience.  I know that I am not.

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