Life and times of a disabled colleague at the EU

Life and times of a disabled colleague at the EU

Agora #89
Pages 41 - 42

A unique perspective on the experiences and challenges faced by a disabled colleague.

2010 I sat EU competitions under special conditions due to a recognised lifelong disability. After several years of competition, I finally passed and became an AST1/2. I started at step 2 because I have more than 10 years of work experience outside the institutions.

In 2012 I joined the European Commission as an official and told my Head of Unit about my disability. As soon as I arrived, I made sure that I had my 3rd language registered in Sysper under Art 45.2 so that I would be eligible for promotion as soon as possible.

In my first job at the European Commission, my colleagues and I were bullied by a serial harasser. I turned to Social Services who were incredibly supportive. I did my work to the best of my ability but of course, I made mistakes due to my disability.

Despite all the challenges and my lifelong disability my Deputy Head of Unit noticed that I was clever and gave me additional responsibilities. The new replacement DHoU also appreciated my strengths and asked me to continue with my good work. Despite working above the responsibilities of my AST1 grade for 4 years, I was not given a promotion by the HoU.

2016 I moved to another DG, who is in charge of the discrimination and exclusion portfolio. My new HoU quickly noticed that I made spelling mistakes to which I replied that I was dyslexic. They told me that they had not been informed by HR. I was very confused because EPSO had accepted my disability diagnosis. I innocently presumed that EPSO had passed my “HR” file to the institution which had recruited me.

As time went on my HoU started removing responsibilities and “down grading my tasks”[1] from the job I had applied for and for which I had been recruited. In my CDRs I was always given positive feedback but in practice, more and more tasks were taken away from me. I kept learning new procedures and creating workflow charts to show that I understood my job. Each time the documents I created and my work, were taken away from me and given to others. I regularly overheard conversations about my mistakes and “unreliability” in different languages. I speak 5 languages and understand 7 languages so I was always aware of what was being said about me behind my back. As problems escalated, I was advised to contact the Mediation Service. I told them about my disability and my experiences with my HoU. They asked if my disability had been recognised[2], to which I replied that I thought EPSO was responsible for informing the institution. The Mediation Service immediately put me in contact with the Medical Service and supported me in getting tested.

For the first time since I joined the European Commission, I was informed that my disability needed to be officially reviewed[3] by the institution, and whom I needed to turn to. My disability is not physical and is not considered medical in any way so it was never clear to me why it should be reported to the medical service.

On contacting the Medical Service I asked in writing for the Mediation Service to be kept informed of the process and tests. The Medical Service sent me psychological tests, but these were not the same type of tests I had done when I was diagnosed.

[1] C(2006)1624/3, Annex Point 2.1

[2] A person with a disability meets “fitness to work” … they are protected by the Staff Regulations anti-discrimination provision.]

[3] Staff Regulations Art 1d, Art 33 – Medical examination to conform with Art 28, Art 28 – physically fit to perform duties

In 2019 I had a work accident. After recovering and returning to work, the constant criticism and removal of tasks continued. I re-contacted the Mediation Service. During my whole time in the European Commission, the Mediation Service was the only place that was able to help me. They wanted me to be a productive and happy member of the staff. The Medical Service had not informed them or me of the results of the tests, or if I needed further tests. After some personal research, I realised that the Medical Service had sent me for the wrong type of tests.

October 2020 I emailed my HoU for the 3rd time to explain my disability and request reasonable adjustments in my job.

I have worked in the institutions for 12 years (3yrs CA, 8yrs AST1), 8 years of positive CDRs from two different Heads of Units, 4+ years of appeals, 1 JPC positive

opinion which was not followed through so no promotion, 3 JPC negative opinion and absolutely no promotions. All the people mentioned in this story have been promoted twice during the whole time that I have been fighting for equal treatment between 2012-2021.

After 8 years of working in the European Commission I was still an AST1 so I contacted USB for help. We introduced an Art 90 appeal for lack of promotion, my appraisal for working year of 2019 was officially reviewed and I was finally promoted to AST 2. My disability has been re-tested in my main language in the correct way and the European Commission has accepted the reasonable adjustments recommended in the independent assessment.

The cumulative effect on my career, access to internal competitions, pension & salary still needs to be followed-up.

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