My boss and I are having a bit of a conflict. I’d like to get some feedback on am email that I’d like to send to him. The atmosphere at my work is very casual and laid back but both my boss and I like to have “official” stuff in written form. He made some statements about this situation in an email that I feel that I need to respond to in writing. There’s also a part of me that thinks that I maybe should just shut up. So, I’d like opinions about the email itself and whether or not I should say anything at all.
The backstory…I’ve been the only woman in my immediate work area since I started the job 6 years ago. I didn’t broadcast my pregnancy so a lot of the men are just now finding out that I’m pregnant. I’m 7 months along. I can’t go 10 minutes without one of them asking how I’m feeling or if I need help. It’s getting really annoying that they’re watching out for me so closely. My work is not dangerous and is for the most part a desk job but with a lot of walking and stairs. Anyway, for two years I’ve been standing on a chair several times a day to reach something. The chair I use does not have wheels. It has a cloth seat and I wear sneakers so it’s not a high heel /slippery surface situation. The area that I do this in is carpeted. The items I’m reaching for are well within my reach with the chair so I’m not straining or leaning. The items can’t be moved to a lower level. There are about 10-15 people who have seen me do this several times a day for the past 2 years. My boss normally isn’t one of them but he has seen me do it and recently we actually had a conversation while I was standing on the chair. He doesn’t remember of course. Someone finally said something to my boss about my safety. My boss sent me an email telling me to use the step ladder that’s kept nearby. The email came across as condescending and scolding me for something I should have known better about. At this point, I tried using the step ladder and decided that it wasn’t a safe option for me at this point in my pregnancy. Instead I asked a co-worker if he could help me by reaching those items for me. I sent my boss an email stating all this…that I’ve been doing this for 2 years in plain sight of many people, the chair feels safer than step ladder and that I’ve asked a co-worker to help me. He made several statements that I feel I need to respond to. He made what was probably a CYA statement but it implied that I have not brought safety concerns to him in the past. That is far from the truth. He also stated that standing on the chair is in violation of OSHA – probably true but my point is that no one (including him) has cared for two years. He also stated that by asking for help I took away his authority to make employee duty decisions. So anyway, with all that said…Here’s my email…
“I understand that the two of you are trying to look out for my safety and I appreciate that. However, I find the timing of this situation a bit odd. Many people have had literally hundreds of opportunities over a long period of time to voice concerns about my safety in this situation but it’s only now becoming an issue. I can’t help but think that this has more to do with my perceived safety as a pregnant woman rather than OSHA regulations. I feel that this wouldn’t be an issue if I weren’t pregnant just has it hasn’t been as issue for the past two years. After all, why has it taken so long for this person to voice his concern? Why is he speaking up now?
From my perspective, the timing of this is a bit insulting even if that's not your intention. It seems to me that the two of you are implying that I’m putting my baby at risk whereas I see retrieving and using the step ladder several times a day to be the greater risk. My baby’s safety is my first priority. That is why I spoke to you about my concerns with chemical exposure during pregnancy. That is why I expressed a desire to stop covering specific positions so that I can have regular access to a restroom in order to maintain the hydration level that my doctor requires during pregnancy. That is why I spoke to you about the logistics of how I can continue to feed my baby once I return to work. This is why I’m now expressing a concern about retrieving and using the step ladder several times every day. Retrieving it engages abdominal muscles in a manner that makes me uncomfortable. Using it requires standing on a platform that I feel is too small for me right now. It makes me feel unsteady. I feel that the frequency that I would need to do this just increases the chance that I will stress the baby or have an accident. I’m sure these concerns will go away once I return from maternity leave. I didn’t think it was a big deal to ask a co-worker to help me out for the next two and a half months. I apologize for overstepping that boundary. If anything else comes up that makes me uncomfortable I will bring it to your attention as soon as I realize it for myself, just as I have done in the past. You have been very accommodating and I appreciate that.
Taking some risks is unavoidable during pregnancy. For me, and for many pregnant women, the most mundane tasks are the riskiest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled muscles or tweaked nerves just by changing from standing, sitting and laying down positions. Walking on a flat, non slippery surface with no obstacles is a guarantee that I will trip over my own feet. But I can’t stay in bed or refuse to walk. I felt that standing on that chair was no greater risk than walking up or down stairs. I can’t refuse to use the stairs for fear that I will fall. Where I draw my boundaries for safety right now may not make sense to others but they reflect my own comfort level. I believe the co-worker who reported this did so because he felt it was unsafe for me as a pregnant woman rather than it being unsafe for anyone.
If it’s alright with you, I’d like a co-worker to help me with this task for now. I prefer to not use the step ladder with that frequency for the remainder of my pregnancy."
Anyway, that’s the email. Any thoughts? Should I send it at all? Thanks!