How can I stop harassment about my medical condition by the boss's friend?



A few years back, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Though I hate it, I know eating anything containing gluten can land me in the hospital. I take it seriously. However, a few weeks back a coworker brought in some leftover cupcakes from her kid's birthday party. Everyone had one but me. My coworker, let's call her Betty, was very offended and kept telling me one little cupcake can't hurt me. She also told me if I just enjoy myself it won't affect me. I told her my condition is serious and then walked out of the room.

After that she's been sending me emails about how "science" has "proven" that Celiac Disease is basically fake. She will even stop by my desk to ask if I got her email. I try to say as little as possible. She also has been hinting when we talk that I have an eating disorder. She has been telling others that she never sees me eat, etc. I've been trying to eat lunch at my desk just to prove a point.

Things escalated when she invited me to a cookout at her house this weekend. I told her I couldn't go as I had other plans. She then asked multiple times if I can find a way to come. She again claimed I need to eat "like a normal person".

On Friday, I get pulled into the boss's office where she explains that I've been acting rude to Betty and that she has been in tears because of my avoiding her. I explained that I simply cannot eat cupcakes, no matter Betty's beliefs about it. I talked about the emails she sent and shared with my boss that I'm afraid she might try to feed me something I'm allergic to, intentionally or not. I explained that I felt Betty was being unreasonable in a somewhat flippant tone.

My boss was not sympathetic, to say the least. She claimed I'm paranoid and that Betty would never do that and I am creating a hostile work environment. That was when I learned Betty grew up with my boss. They're best friends. And she didn't like that I was calling Betty names (I wasn't). It seemed as though, from the tone of her response, that I might not have a job if I snub Betty's party.

I really hate this, but I simply can't go to the party. I'm unsure how the boss will take this. Sadly, I love my job, but this is insane. How can I keep my job without eating a cupcake?

Update: Huh, this kinda blew up. As I mentioned in the comments, I DID NOT GO TO THE PARTY. Let me explain what just happened today:

Normally, management comes in an hour before I do. Today, I came in 30 minutes early. Another of the boss's friends walked by, I said hello, and she didn't respond. Instead, she sprinted away from me. This was far too curious. Something was up.

I marched to my boss's office. When she noticed me coming in, she hurriedly slammed her laptop shut and asked what I am doing. "We need to talk right now." I said.

I explained that recently I felt it was hard to come to her with things, and I apologized for not coming to her sooner over Betty's conflict. I told her I felt like speaking to her sometimes lit a fuse I didn't intend to light. If there was some way I was communicating with her that seemed combative or disrespectful, I'm sorry and will work to correct it.

Her response was that I need to go home immediately, and she will take care of it tomorrow when she's ready. She explained that she hasn't had time to put all my things in a box yet.

That was when her boss walked by. Let's call him... Saul. Saul was on his way out of the office. He wasn't supposed to be in by the time I normally come to work, but when he saw me, he was visibly confused. Whatever Bosslady was up to, coming in early clearly ruined her plan.

Before Bosslady and Betty, I worked with Saul. He's great. And he knows I can do my job like nobody else. We both have tremendous respect for each other and share the same vision for the company.

He then pulled me into his office and had me wait while he spoke to Bosslady. 15 minutes later, he came in, and promoted me to another department. He also told me to take the rest of the day off, paid, to celebrate the promotion.

The new position is with people who are hard workers like me and very intelligent. I've been wanting to work with them since I started here two years ago. Bosslady manages the department which is mostly a training ground for newcomers. Finally, I graduated out. Not many do.

I did very little, but in the end, everything seems to be working out. I definitely trust that Saul has this handled. Betty sent me an email a few minutes ago saying she was sad to see me go. All I can say is I am not sad at all to get the hell away from her.


Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 663

Question was closed 2018-03-06T15:19:24.403

1Have you shared with your boss the emails that Betty sent you?DJClayworth 2018-03-04T04:39:16.477

11My Boss Manager? Executive? Owner? Chief Line Chef? Owner vs "manager" has different avenues of response... Just a "manager" and you can go to HR...WernerCD 2018-03-04T21:40:31.610

32Well that's a happy end :)Daniel Jour 2018-03-05T20:22:33.583

6I am glad everything ended well, thank's god for Saul. The whole thing seems so surreal. Whenever I say I can't it flower or such because It makes me sick, people says "oh that is too bad" and maybe joke "more for me". I mean it doesn't affect them at all that you can't eat cupcakes. You can still hang out and talk with them. Some people even is nice enough to try and get something else for me.Dzyann 2018-03-05T20:36:13.657

18That was unexpected, but congrats to your promotion and happy ending to this :)Karl-Johan Sjögren 2018-03-05T21:13:00.630

16@DanielJour Now if only Betty and boss could get reprimanded, it would be even happier. Seriously, harassing the OP over their medical condition, spreading rumors about OP having eating disorders, and then running crying to the boss about it and nearly getting the OP fired? This is all beyond the pale; these two represent a very real legal risk to the company. Bare minimum, they need to be in separate departments due to conflict of interest. But I don't think OP can do much to bring that about. OP is extremely lucky to get this outcome.jpmc26 2018-03-06T01:20:26.420

1It was all a test. Ask your coworkers in the new department how their graduating exam went.Konerak 2018-03-06T06:30:52.290

2Wow. Awesome outcome! Thank you for the update.mcalex 2018-03-06T07:09:37.043

2So good to see a happy ending! Congratulations on your promotion!T. Sar 2018-03-06T13:09:46.017

3Thank you for the update. I (and probably everyone else) was very curious how this was working out for you. Seems that Saul saw right through what happening; probably knew about Betty and her friend since before and found a good solution that made everyone — including Betty & Friend — happy. Kudos to Saul!MichaelK 2018-03-06T14:34:36.323



Don't bother going to the event. It won't help. Save the emails from Betty, probably by printing them out and storing them at your house. This sounds like workplace harrasment and if you're fired over it, contact an attorney.

Be courteous and professional, but don't eat the cupcakes.

Glen Pierce

Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 3 202

2I already told the both of them I won't be there. My concern is this may cost me my job. Before all this Betty and I were actually on good terms.invot 2018-03-04T02:55:02.993

70It might, but that seems like such an extreme escalation that you should really have legal counsel examine the situation should it come to that.Glen Pierce 2018-03-04T03:04:13.100

Just a bit of precaution here: if you plan to use the emails as evidence, a printout is completely worthless from a forensic point of view.Andrea Lazzarotto 2018-03-04T18:00:35.320

21@AndreaLazzarotto - email printouts aren't worthless. If you show someone a printout and the person denies their veracity in court (or are shown to have deleted the original emails) they'll probably go to jail for perjury or perverting the course of justice. Anyone sensible would agree that they're real for fear of the consequences of lying vastly outweighing the benefit of lying.Richard 2018-03-04T18:03:56.323

2@Richard, I dunno about the US, but in the EU digital evidence standards are much stricter than that. Especially in case of penal trials, a printout is inadmissible.Andrea Lazzarotto 2018-03-04T18:05:53.840

8@AndreaLazzarotto - In UK law email printouts are admissable. Per the Criminal Evidence Act - "In any criminal proceedings where direct oral evidence of a fact would be admissible, any statement contained in a document and tending to establish that fact shall, on production of the document, be admissible as evidence of that fact if ... the document is, or forms part of, a record relating to any trade or business". This explicitly includes printouts although their veracity can be questioned under cross-examination.Richard 2018-03-04T18:10:22.590

@Richard OK alright, they equate to oral statements. Conversely, a proper digital acquisition of the emails would be forensically sound.Andrea Lazzarotto 2018-03-04T18:34:25.683

12@AndreaLazzarotto - You're close. They're equal to any business document unless they're contested in which case both sides will have equal access to any supporting forensic evidence. But contesting them in civil court when they're known to be accurate carries its own risk of being held accountable for the accrued costs. Similarly, If I demand forensic level evidence that the email I sent is real in a criminal trial, the judge will take a very dim view and may direct the jury accordingly.Richard 2018-03-04T18:39:49.207

1@invot is it possible that there was something more between Betty and you and that for her the whole thing is something on the emotional level and she feels rejected? I think this is not about cupcakes.jms 2018-03-04T18:59:05.403

25"... probably by printing them out ..." - I'd recommend printing them with the e-mail headers, that would help forensics if it ever comes to that. Also, I'd suggest keeping a log of all interactions related to this situation (with proof where applicable). If this escalates further, such documentation could be of great help.marcelm 2018-03-05T00:28:48.730

3I think it would be prudent to even seek legal consultation BEFORE getting fired, so that you know everything you can do to put the law in your favor.Kai 2018-03-05T05:06:17.800

About the e-mails, you might consider just forwarding them to a personal address, if that does not break any company policy. Those usually regulate sharing confidential information only so you should be fine.Paula Hasstenteufel 2018-03-05T14:42:00.437

"Be courteous and professional, but don't eat the cupcakes." - why you get my vote for best answer.invot 2018-03-05T16:12:39.100


Do not defend your illness or try to prove it in any way.

You are in no way obliged to eat whatever a coworker offers to you - illness or no illness. And you certainly have completely no work obligation to humour a colleague, especially over something serious like diet.

Defending and trying to prove your illness will only get you in a "shouting match", where the people that already don't believe you will shout harder that you are not sick and you will have to shout even harder that you are - that's completely pointless. If a person is not willing to accept what you are trying to tell them from the start they never will.

Currently you ARE being harassed and that is unacceptable. You must go to HR and report Betty at once, providing the emails as evidence.
Now, in your case you have a problem - your boss doesn't believe you, which means she is biased and not a good boss. The reality of your situation is as follows:

Your work environment is toxic. Your boss isn't doing her job properly by ensuring you are separated from personal drama in your workplace AND by ensuring you can report any complaints to her, which means HR probably won't help, either. I'd suggest changing your job, as these are seriously bad signs. However I'm willing to bet you don't want to change it or can't, in which case, sorry, but the drama will continue for some time until Betty gets over it, which depending on personality might be years.
And, no, eating a cupcake or yielding will not make it better, only worse. So stand tall and endure.


Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 551

12I almost always recommend avoiding involving HR at all costs and handling things at the lowest level, but I have to agree here. @invot has done all they can and it is time to involve HRKevin 2018-03-05T02:11:59.253

HR does not really exist in my company.invot 2018-03-05T15:58:34.210

1@invot, that's a bad sign but I understand the situation and the company. Still, it seems you had a tremendous stike of luck, now that I saw your update - congratulations, I am happy for you! :)mathgenius 2018-03-05T17:37:32.483

"Don't try to prove it" is generally fine advice to dealing with irrational people of all sorts, but in this particular case, I think a simple statement like "I appreciate your advice, but I've decided to follow my Doctor's orders on this. Feel free to send your information to him/her if you'd like." wouldn't be out of place.Lee Daniel Crocker 2018-03-05T21:51:12.273

I'd like to point out that, indeed, eating the cupcake will make it much worse, because OP would have at the very least ended up in the hospital.Nic Hartley 2018-03-06T01:21:30.033

Your work environment is toxic. Literally.mcalex 2018-03-06T07:10:51.387

@LeeDanielCrocker, I think it would be wasted. OP has already tried similar methods and clearly Betty is not interested in what he has to say.mathgenius 2018-03-07T19:32:29.503

@mcalex, imo that is not at all clear. In any event I will delete all my comments about this, since they are nonconstructive and uninformative.mathgenius 2018-03-10T15:01:04.323


First, improve the paper trail. The emails you have from Betty are great, but if you get fired for a different made-up reason, those emails may not be enough to prove that your boss was in on the harassment. In fact, your boss may even deny that you ever spoke to her about this topic.

Email your boss. Say something like:

"Dear [boss],

Following our conversation last [Wednesday]:

I understand that many people claim to have a gluten allergy, even when they haven't been tested for it. That being said, 1% of the American population do have Celiac disease for sure and unfortunately, I am part of that 1%.

Not only have I been feeling those symptoms, but I also know this isn't just my imagination as I've been tested for it and I've tested positive (unlike so many others who claim the same allergy), and I can bring a doctor's note if needed.

Please speak to Betty on my behalf. I do not wish to upset her. I am willing to cancel my plans and attend her cookout if she's willing to let go of this issue of trying to convert me to her non-gluten-free diet and if I am allowed to bring my own homemade gluten-free dish to the cookout, enough to share with everyone.

Your help in mediating this issue without hurting Betty's feelings would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Let me know what she says.


And before everyone criticizes this response. Yes, I do realize that Invot doesn't need to be this nice about it, nor does she/he need to prove anything. And I also do realize that the job is probably not worth keeping either.

But I drafted this email specifically because she/he wants to keep the job. Plus, it doesn't hurt to get the conversation documented somewhere should the worst happen. Speaking of which, like someone else said already, forward those emails and any document proving your case to home email address. And for the cookout, see if you can bring a date. A date could be your witness. A date can also pull you out of the cookout early.

Stephan Branczyk

Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 9 165

16Why does the disease even matter here? Harassment is harassment. Also, for the email, I'd suggest: (1) adding some form of the word "harassment" in a very visible manner - accusation of harassment tends to get taken more seriously, (2) actually detailing what Betty did wrong and what you'd like her to stop and (3) possibly get HR involved (since the manager doesn't seem to be on OP's side).Dukeling 2018-03-04T12:11:29.947

3@Dukeling, It doesn't. I'm just using the diagnosis of the disease as an excuse to restart the earlier conversation and record the interaction in email form. If none of that works, I would follow up with the email you suggest. It's also important not to escalate too early. The boss claimed the OP called Betty a name. The boss will continue with that false accusation if the email starts talking about "harassment" right away.Stephan Branczyk 2018-03-04T13:11:18.717

7Well, at the moment the email focuses entirely on the disease and might make it seem like OP is the one that's to blame here by not having explained themselves well enough, instead of focusing on Betty's wildly inappropriate behaviour. This also encourages her behaviour by allowing the conversation to continue around the disease, instead of just shutting it down with an "it's none of your business and you're making me uncomfortable", which has been the problem up to this point. I'm not sure how much that would help the paper trail.Dukeling 2018-03-04T13:58:00.313

Also, and perhaps more importantly, nowhere in the question do I read that the boss doubted or questioned OP's disease, but rather that OP was accused of acting rude to and avoiding Betty and being paranoid about what she might do (which wouldn't be justified by having Celiac). How does focusing on the disease address those points? Having numerous false accusations thrown at means things have already escalated quite a lot.Dukeling 2018-03-04T14:18:18.413

9This is the mature, sensible response, firm yet de-escalating.DJClayworth 2018-03-04T14:22:18.277

"printed copies" do not count as evidence. OP should keep the original emails.Andrea Lazzarotto 2018-03-04T18:02:19.580

FWIW, when I was tested (negatively, thankfully) a few years back I was told that for Celiac it was an antibody test where a positive match was 100% you have it and a negative match was high confidence you don't. It's possible to have a negative match when you have Celiac but it's supposed to be pretty uncommon.Kaithar 2018-03-04T18:10:45.123

3The letter should also mention that when you talked to your boss about being harassed by Betty, you felt the boss was taking Betty's side without taking your legitimate medical issues into consideration. At this point, as people have said, you should be explicitly creating as clear of a paper trail as possible so that you can convince HR that they best protect the company's interests by protecting you rather than Betty and your boss. (In your state it may also be legal for you to record further conversations with Betty.)arp 2018-03-04T21:18:17.180

@Kaithar there’s a biopsy that should be done for 100% confirmation. The blood antibody test is not considered conclusive last I knew.alroc 2018-03-05T00:30:36.640

1@AndreaLazzarotto, Thanks, I've just made the correction.Stephan Branczyk 2018-03-05T04:08:39.983

@Dukeling, If the OP says this is harassment and repeats what the boss said in its entirety, the boss (if she's not a complete idiot) will probably lie about the entire conversation. On the other hand, if the boss is indeed a complete idiot, the boss will simply repeat what she said during the conversation on her own in response to the new email. Also, I tried finding a scientific article that said that Celiac's Disease was a made up disease, but I couldn't find one, so I am assuming that what Betty found was closer to what I found although she may have completely misread it.Stephan Branczyk 2018-03-05T04:28:23.787

Furthermore, during the conversation with the boss, I am assuming that the boss was too busy defending Betty instead of thinking of ways she could resolve the situation by convincing Betty not to harass the OP anymore. But in this email message, I'm hoping that the explanation given is good enough for Betty to accept, especially if it's coming from her childhood friend, the boss. And I'm also hoping that the boss, herself, will attend that cookout and will run interference with Betty, should Betty get crazy during the cookout and insist that the OP tries dishes that she/he doesn't want to try.Stephan Branczyk 2018-03-05T04:37:04.317

If you're up for confrontation, show her your doctor/er bills - ask her if it's all in your head? Ask her why she cares so much what you eat? What if it was a peanut allergy? Ask her if she's known anyone allergic to bees - would she cajole them about carrying an epi-pen when they could just "relax and enjoy playing outside normally"?Orangutech 2018-03-05T04:43:26.403

1Where I work, that kind of email would be seen as very, very odd. We're all "older professionals" and doctor's notes would be seen as juvenile. I really don't think I need to take it that far. My word should be enough. When someone says "no" it should be respected.invot 2018-03-05T15:54:18.003

1@invot I agree a firm "no" should be respected, but it seems like in your case it was not. Unreasonable behavior sometimes requires unreasonable responses. I'm glad Saul showed up and injected some sense into this situation. Had he not though, it may have been prudent to to accept that your boss wasn't behaving logically (accepting "no"), and therefore a logical response (just saying "no") probably wasn't going to work.Lord Farquaad 2018-03-05T17:30:19.213

I'd tone down the e-mail. I'd keep it to something more neutral, like, "It has come to my attention hat you may not be aware of how serious my condition is. I have obtained written confirmation of my diagnosis for your records and arranged/would be happy to arrange for wavers if more information is needed. In light of our recent discussion, this may be helpful in helping to resolving the difference between Betty and I." Even the last part is questionable, but I understand you wanted to make it explicit in your draft.jpmc26 2018-03-06T01:09:41.873

@invot, I've amended my message a little bit. If you still don't want to use it, or something like it, that's fine. But maybe you should just go to HR at this point. Even if you can prove harassment and discrimination over a medical issue should you get fired, I understand your goal is not to get fired in the first place.Stephan Branczyk 2018-03-06T06:35:38.883


The best thing would be to call your GP when your boss is nearby, and have him or her talk to your boss, so she is told by a medical professional what kind of irresponsible idiot she is. (If I had to talk to her, I wouldn't use polite words like "irresponsible idiot", but something let's say more robust).

Or show her some websites like or


Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 55 899

14I am not so sure those websites would help because "science" has "proven" that the disease is fake.Masked Man 2018-03-04T02:26:08.777

4If that does not work, it may take a formal doctor's note indicating the OP has a disability and a reasonable accommodation would be to not require the OP to eat foods containing gluten.Patricia Shanahan 2018-03-04T02:26:45.667

47After more thought, I suggest not showing the websites. Doing so implicitly accepts the idea that the OP's boss has some role in evaluating the OP's medical condition and any diet limitations it requires.Patricia Shanahan 2018-03-04T05:23:49.277

7No, the boss does not need to talk to OP's doctor. The fact that OP has a serious disease actually doesn't matter. OP should be able to decline a cupcake or a party, with or without a reason, without feeling like their job is in danger. If it doesn't affect their job performance, OP's medical condition is really none of their boss' business.Seth R 2018-03-04T21:21:22.030


"Betty is strange in many ways. I believe the boss gave her a job out of sympathy."

This is the key to the inordinate violence of the reaction to your claim that you suffer from Celiac Disease.

When your Bosslady and Betty were growing up together, they developed a complex relationship that includes the idea that Betty suffers from a tragic flaw (or flaws) that prevents her from having a normal life without Bosslady to support her. This flaw probably has never been documented, and probably is total nonsense, but it is the sine qua non of their friendship.

Bosslady's devotion to her poor tragic broken friend includes giving her a job that they both think Betty doesn't deserve, and Betty's whole life and livelihood revolve around her being the one who needs help and support because of her unfortunate condition.

Now you come along and announce that you, too, suffer from a tragic affliction that interferes with your life and requires accomodation from those around you.

This cannot be allowed! You can't have a problem -- that's Betty's role in your little daytime drama. You can't expect accommodation -- Betty needs all the accommodation. Bosslady can't support you -- she is entirely consumed in supporting Betty.

If you want to keep your job, forget about your Celiac Disease. Don't talk about it, keep it a secret, pretend you don't have it. Just leave the baked foods on your plate and try to deflect attention from it.

Bonus points: In light of this insight, consider Betty's sundry strangenesses as ploys to engender sympathy. Try to find out how Betty defines her handicap and make a big fuss over it.

Also, as others have said, document all interactions, in case you do get fired.

A. I. Breveleri

Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 5 700

13... are you writing the script for the movie @Kilisi proposed in the question comments?bharal 2018-03-04T14:18:50.670

Just looking for the simplest explanation that accounts for all the facts.A. I. Breveleri 2018-03-04T15:09:19.323

4@A.I.Breveleri It might be good to note that this is a speculative hypothesis; whilst this seems convincing, you don't have enough evidence to rule out certain others.wizzwizz4 2018-03-04T17:22:28.217

@wizzwizz4 This answer attempts a scientific approach. It proposes a hypothesis that is simple, is not falsified by experiments and that allows to predict some effects. It doesn't need any "evidence to rule out certain others", this is a Q&A site, not a court session.kubanczyk 2018-03-04T17:57:47.647

3@kubanczyk The answerer missed out the step where you gather more evidence and see if your theory was correct in its predictions.wizzwizz4 2018-03-04T18:00:37.453

@wizzwizz4 OP's job obviously. We don't know Betty.kubanczyk 2018-03-04T18:03:40.467

@wizzwizz4 You can be the assistant scriptwriter, you know? Anyway, this entire script is based on OP's assumption that Bosslady gave Betty the job out of sympathy. We don't know if that assumption is true, and it is not our job to do that investigation.Masked Man 2018-03-04T18:12:11.037

Actually this sounds an awful lot like a place that I worked at before.Wayne Werner 2018-03-05T04:57:39.660

Where is the quote from at the top of your answer? I can't find it in the question or any comments.Kelly S. French 2018-03-05T15:37:32.733

1@Kelly S. French: It was the second or third comment, by invot, to one of the early answers. I didn't make a record of which because I didn't expect anything to disappear.A. I. Breveleri 2018-03-05T18:08:28.810

2Well, if I was writing a melodrama script, as some have suggested, I couldn't have fashioned a more satisfying resolution than that reported by invot in her update.A. I. Breveleri 2018-03-05T18:11:28.550

1Betty and I were friends when I first started. I actually liked her because she was so unusual and didn't follow the boring, inhuman protocol much of us do. There was a point though, before all this, when I realized she was probably not someone I should get close to. She literally tackled someone to the ground while we were walking to lunch one day. I had to get between them and break it up. Bosslady said there was nothing she could do because it happened outside of the office. From there on she just got worse, mostly because she realized what she can get away with.invot 2018-03-05T22:44:27.843

3And yes, if this becomes a movie, make sure to cast jLaw as me.invot 2018-03-05T22:51:26.413


I can sympathise - coeliac sufferers tend to deal with the pain they face silently, so people observing the sufferer tend to think along the lines of "there's nothing wrong with them, so they just need to eat like normal people".

This appears to be a deliberate misunderstanding. These are well-meaning people, except they've got an idea in their heads that you're avoiding their food in order to cause insult to them.

The key is to write a letter to Betty and your boss. Explain the disease, when you were first diagnosed with it, and your symptoms.

Talk about the effects on you if you do eat gluten, and how long the effects persist for.

Outline everything you've tried in order to help deal with it: the doctors you've talked to, the scans you've had, the courses of treatment you've tried, and the supplements you take. This is to show them that you would rather not have coeliac disease, and you've tried hard to 'cure' it.

Express your dismay that you were unable to eat the delicious-looking cupcakes that Betty baked, as the consequences of eating them would be too severe.

Compare coeliac disease to an egg allergy: if someone was badly allergic to eggs, would people say "come on, eat this egg - you need to eat like a normal person"?

Make it clear that you will not be eating any gluten, that you'd rather not have to choose to avoid it, and that it's not intended to cause any offense.

Present this letter to Betty, and your boss, and see how they react to it.

If they become slightly more understanding, that's good! It's a sign of progress, and over time they might be prepared to adjust their mindsets even more.

If the letter has no effect or makes it worse, start looking for another job - the harassment will only get worse, as people with good intentions and a total lack of understanding start sneaking gluten into your food to show you that "see? it's good for you" or the like.

Above all, look after yourself - constant pain is mentally taxing enough already, and it's made a lot worse when people refuse to acknowledge it and actively oppose it.


Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 51


A supplement to the good answers we have already. There seems to be a fashion at present for avoiding gluten, amongst people who do not have Celiac disease. However, participants in this fashion think or claim that not having gluten makes them feel better, in the usual way of food fads.

If your boss and Betty know of this fad, and are unaware of the real Celiac disease, their reactions make a lot more sense. So politely making sure they're aware that it's a real medical condition, quite separate from the fad, gives them a chance to climb down if they've been unaware of it.

John Dallman

Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 139

6Betty had evidence in the form of emails that show "science" has "proven" the disease is fake. Since it is written record, it must be true. I am not sure how the OP can make them any more aware of the "real" disease. Anyway, you are making a huge assumption that dimwitted people like Betty will listen to reason. People who make such a huge deal out of a cupcake don't care if your disease is real or not. The whole world has to revolve around them, they won't have it any other way.Masked Man 2018-03-04T18:14:46.430

9This fad has been a mixed blessing for my sister, who has Celiac disease. At least now people know what gluten is, but they're less likely to treat it like an allergy (thoroughly clean all utensils etc.) and more likely to think of it as a dietary preference. Regardless, even if OP was gluten-free through choice, the coworkers' response is unacceptable. Consider a vegetarian being put through the same treatment.Mikkel 2018-03-04T18:22:04.427


It depends how big your company is. If the boss is owner/ceo/top dog and it’s a relatively small company there’s not much you can do. If it’s a larger one you can always go above their head to their line manager.

Remember to note times and dates of when you spoke to your boss and what was said, what you said. Keep all evidence then present it.

Luca Mackenzie

Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 31


I find in these situations it's beneficial to go to the extreme in being professional in all interactions.

This is a job. Everything you do there should relate to the job, and if it's unclear then ask for clarification.

Document everything. Every interaction, every email, every meeting. Send meeting notes, even if it's a hallway conversation, and include all affected parties.

If the meeting appears to be an interpersonal meeting, CC someone from HR, your supervisor/boss, and perhaps a third party if previous meetings similar to this one have identified the need for an objective observer.

Make sure they understand your job role as you understand it, and that they have opportunity to notify you of new responsibilities if they feel you aren't meeting their standards.

Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to explain your diet or medical needs any further. They have no valid business reason to know unless they are planning meetings involving food that require your attendance. In such cases inform HR of your dietary requirements, labeling requirements, and when asked tell your boss or co-workers to discuss dietary needs for all involved in the meeting with HR. HR should be a clearing house of such information, and need never reveal who has what requirements, simply providing necessary information so that the company doesn't become liable for injuring its workers.

The rest of the question, however, is largely an interpersonal one, and might be better suited for the Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange briefly, though, I suggest you maintain a high degree of separation between personal and work information, and design boundaries that prevent this problem from continuing.

When a co-worker provides information attempting to influence your personal medical decisions, a simple reply should make sure they understand you have no need of their help or continued interest.

I appreciate your desire to help me. Please understand I'm following my doctor's plan for my personal healthcare, and do not need further assistance.

If they persist:

Please do not contact me any further about my personal healthcare.

And, perhaps as a last resort:

I do not understand why you keep emailing me about my personal healthcare when I've asked you to stop. I'm copying this email to our HR representative and I'd appreciate a meeting between the three of us so we can understand workplace boundaries regarding personal healthcare.

Again, making sure you professional in these interactions means CC'ing others who may need to know about this harassment.

Setting boundaries, limiting discussion to workplace issues, and clarifying whether a party or any other gathering is a job requirement should help reduce the occurrences of these issues. It probably won't make you friends with either of these two people you are having difficulties with, but as long as you do you job, log negative interactions, and act professionally in all things it will be hard for them to find fault in a way that makes you easy to fire.

All that said, you're in a toxic work environment, and you should consider finding a job which better meets your needs.

Adam Davis

Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 7 413


First of all I'd advise to get some support. Maybe some kind of personal coach to help you develop a standing and argumentation on that matter. I guess it would really be worth the investment to talk about that with a pro.

Second, I wonder what would happen if you invite Betty to some gluten-free cooking/eating. Rice, vegetables, chicken something.

Maybe there even is a restaurant in your town specialized in gluten-free meals?


Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 192

Fantastic idea as it clearly shows the OP eats etc and is a kind gesture. Unfortunately it sounds like the OP's colleague isn't the most rational so I'd still Glen's advice as well.Notts90 2018-03-04T08:03:20.500

@Notts90 - I upvoted Glen's answer too. But it was not answering how to not lose the job in the first place.leymannx 2018-03-04T08:29:26.353

That’s why I upvoted bothNotts90 2018-03-04T08:30:40.617


Write an e-mail to your co-worker and your boss explaining your situation and how you feel they don't take your concerns seriously.

Do not put any accusations into that e-mail. If they don't respond with emails, make sure there are neutral witnesses to the conversation. Again, do not blame them.

You'll have two possible outcomes. Either you dissolve a “misunderstanding“ and can hopefully go back to work with only a bitter flavor left or you have definitive proof that they are harassing your which you can then take to someone higher up. Or an attorney if that doesn't work.

To help your case, try not to bring any accusations into the confrontation. Play naive and make every word and action based on the most positive understanding of anything they do. Assume they mean only well all the time until proven wrong with evidence that others can see. (In reasonable boundaries, while going to the party and leaving in an ambulance would help your case, I'm not suggesting actually trusting them, but everything short of risking your health)


Posted 2018-03-04T00:26:35.637

Reputation: 483