BIG MOOSE LAKE, New York — “They wanted permission to use their own noise-canceling headphones for data entry, and I know this story is true … ” whispered Carla Alonso-Díaz to her colleagues at the team-building retreat, “… because it happened to me.” The group of middle-aged human resource employees and overpaid executives winced in spine-chilling horror as they sat around the dim light of the campfire.
Alonso-Díaz, the 52-year-old vice president of DogBird Logistics, is just one attendee among dozens of brave managers, owners and executives who take to the forests each October during Disability Employment Awareness Month to swap horror stories of employees knowing their rights and requesting reasonable accommodations.
Despite the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy showing that 49% of accommodation requests cost the company absolutely nothing — and that an additional 43% only result in a one-time $300 purchase — the shaking employers continued to swap stories under the full moon, sharing complaints about how expensive and unreasonable these accommodations can truly be.
Jack Spaniel, 73, took the flashlight to the bottom of his face and spoke. “I will never forget. It was 50 years ago this very night. I was reading a memo that my secretary wrote me. One of my employees asked for a chair. A chair! How on earth is a customer supposed to take you seriously if you’re sitting down? I fired that employee on the spot. It was a different time back then.”
The night concluded around 3 a.m. when one member checked their inbox only to find a fresh request from a disabled employee asking for an accessible parking spot near the entrance, which sent the employers screaming and sprinting into the woods.