Unfortunately, I now know how a person who has been falsely accused of a crime feels when the guilty judgment comes in. Though my situation is not the conventional experience in which a judge, jury and jail are involved, the feelings when that life-changing decision is imposed are almost identical in many ways.
Helplessness, utter despair, anger and frustration reverberate through your mind as the guilty sentence replays like a broken record again and again, or in my case, the decision to deny me a job because I have lupus.
Not unlike how a prosecutor may view a pile of prior convictions as enough evidence to substantiate an arrest on new and unrelated charges, my potential employers’ doctors looked at my medical history of hand pain and made the assumption that since I have the “”big, bad lupus,”” I couldn’t do the job.
Funny, though, that no one questioned my abilities before my 10-minute physical exam in which I disclosed I had mild lupus. I had passed the required background investigation, interview and polygraph test without any problem.
But with the mere mention of lupus, bam, all my abilities and qualifications went out the window, and all that flashed in my potential employers’ heads most likely was: Proceed with extreme caution — risk, risk, risk!
This “”rush to judgment”” decision was made without any effort to collect the necessary evidence of my current medical condition of improved health over the past couple of months. It was almost as if once they knew I had lupus, that’s all they needed to know about me.
So due to this “”rush to judgment,”” it wasn’t surprising that I was denied the job in which I had so many hopes.
The only upside to this unfair experience is that it has given me a new-found empathy with those who have been falsely accused and convicted for a crime they did not commit.
I agree that my situation is really nothing compared to that of people who have lost their freedom in a miscarriage of justice — for once the guilty verdict is in, the life as a person knows it is gone.
Yet that rush to judgment, the discrimination on the part of my potential employers, cost me a job that would have provided money for tuition and the needed jump-start to begin my trek into the legal field.
But most of all, that discrimination cost me the right to choose my own destiny. For I was instead arbitrarily deemed not capable to do the job of researching on the computer the backgrounds of alleged felons and preparing reports for the court.
So I pose these questions: So what if I have a chronic illness? Does that fact automatically disqualify me from the right to make a living? Isn’t it my right to choose the course of my destiny, and by extension any job that I qualify for as long as I hold up my end of the bargain and do the job to my highest ability?
Franklin Roosevelt had a physical disability, yet it did not affect the job he did for our country. He led our country through the two major crises of the 20th century, the Depression and World War II.
Would we even dare to try and tell Roosevelt that he couldn’t be president because he had a disability?
Maybe the better question to ask is: Did that disability deter Roosevelt from leading our country successfully through those two major crises? The answer is an unequivocal no. He is arguably the most influential president, and he did it all from a wheelchair.
Disability and illness do not define a person, not if that person doesn’t let them. So why, then, do employers choose to see people in terms of a disability rather than by their qualifications and abilities? I submit that it’s less of a risk to hire someone who is supposedly healthy than someone who has a disclosed problem — it’s an easy and convenient cop-out to our American ideals.
Yet I have always envisioned an America where a person is first judged by his abilities and qualities rather than any disability.
I have always thought America the great champion of the underdog, to give that underdog a fair chance. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I expect from my country based on our Bill of Rights.
So here is my plea. All I ask is that the same standards that are used to judge disease- or disability- free people are likewise used for my evaluation.
View my case for employment based on its merits, not by any personal preconceived notions or by the so-called weight of the preponderance of evidence.
I have the right to determine my own destiny, so take warning: I will not let discrimination stop me. I will not go down without a fight. After all, I have the law on my side.