Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Even Hollywood Actors Can Have a Bad Day at Work

I watched the episode of Blue Bloods in which Jackie (played by Jennifer Esposito), tells her partner Danny (played by Donnie Wahlberg) that she is taking a leave of absence from the police force, because she needs a break from all the terrible things that people do to each other. She sounds really sad and tired when she says this.

I like Jackie’s character, and I like the chemistry between Esposito and Wahlberg. I was sorry to hear that she’d be leaving the show. I was even sorrier to hear the reason—Esposito has celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that makes her sensitive to gluten, and CBS, her employer, was not amenable to providing the accommodation, a part-time schedule, her doctor deemed necessary. CBS released a statement that the request rendered Esposito “unable to perform the demands of her role” and that they “regretfully had to put her character on a leave of absence.”

I don’t know if Esposito qualified for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or if CBS’s statement about Esposito being unable to perform the job was made directly in response to the law’s requirement that employers provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities able to perform the essential functions of the job so long as the accommodation does not pose an undue hardship. Being an HR professional, I know from experience that accommodation requests can be tricky to navigate, and I wouldn’t dare comment on the appropriateness of CBS’ actions without having all the facts. However, one thing’s for sure—Esposito was not happy with her employer’s response.

She tweeted, “CBS put me on unpaid leave and has blocked me from working anywhere else after my doctor said you needed a reduced schedule due to Celiac … CBS didn’t listen to my doc and I collapsed on the set, which everyone saw! After a week off my doc said I could return to work but CBS implied that I was NOT truly ill and this was a scheme to get a raise!” Esposito described CBS’s behavior as “bullying,” which certainly got my attention, as I’m on a bit of a mission concerning this particular workplace disorder. Check out the piece I wrote for ezineArticles.

Esposito’s tweet that “[This is] Truly a sad day when you can be bullied at my age with a disease” really got to me, because it is a shame when a grown woman is bullied at work by other grown folks certainly old enough to know better. And, if you’re a mature, reasonable, and relatively well-mannered individual, the viciousness underlying bullying behavior can be absolutely shocking. However, the sad truth is that bullying, along with lots of other dysfunctional and mean-spirited behavior, is alive and well in the workplace.

I hope that Esposito is able to manage her illness and return to acting sooner rather than later. She’s got lots of fans waiting. 

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