The High Price of Winning

by Christina Medvescek on July 1, 2006 - 4:38pm

Time and a hip replacement had exacerbated the effects of Elizabeth Kimrey’s Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). The 60-year-old psychologist, who uses a walker, was so fatigued that her doctor recommended she cut back from five to four days in her job at the North Carolina State University counseling center in Raleigh.

By working “on-call” hours each week — fielding after-hours and holiday calls at home — Kimrey found she could be in the office four days a week, but still get paid for five. “This was a perfect way for me to earn a day off but still work full time,” she said. “When I consulted an attorney familiar with the ADA I was told it was clearly a reasonable accommodation.”

The university’s Office for Equal Opportunity agreed and recommended that her supervisor provide the accommodations.

What had started well then became difficult. The trouble was, on-call hours are prized and shared by several counselors. Kimrey was claiming one-third of the available hours.

Elizabeth Kimrey
Elizabeth Kimrey

A couple of counselors were upset about the accommodation. One quit speaking to her. The supervising psychologist refused to fully implement the accommodations for seven months, until Kimrey threatened to file a formal complaint. When he finally granted the hours, it was with a limitation that violated the ADA, but Kimrey decided to say nothing.

At the end of the 2005-2006 academic year, she retired from the university and returned to private practice.

“It’s hard for me to ask for help, and I know that I’m going to need more adjustments to the hours I work in the future. I need to be in a situation where I can make those adjustments without having to upset other people so much.”

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