I am a union employee working in the film industry. For the past year I have been working for an abusive supervisor, but I've been making do with the situation as the culture generally allows crazy mean people to behave any way they want. We all know this to be true and generally a person in my position is judged poorly if they can't take it.
However, late May of this year, a very horrible family crisis happened out of state. I had to ship a teenager I barely know, and who has a bad reputation, to my home, hire lawyers and doctors and spend many many hours on the phone trying to help my mother. I tried to keep this personal business limited to lunch hours, but my supervisor started truncating my lunch and breaks so I couldn't take care of anything. She was also calling me at home with weird random accusations and angry questions. I finally couldn't handle the two sources of stress simultaneously and asked my producer to release me on a family leave. He agreed and I was allowed to leave work.
I then made an appointment with a psychologist who principally works with dysfunctional families. The appointment was mostly to help me work out how to deal with everything. My anxiety level was so high I wasn't able to sort out what to do. He told me he wanted to put me on disability instead of family leave. The disability cause is anxiety and depression.
Now, a month later, I am slowly sorting through the family mess and trying to cope with the idea of returning to work. I will still be out until the end of August as it will take that long to settle my mother and nephew in their new homes and (possibly) initiate action against my brother. It's pretty ugly, but I'm beginning to be able to cope with the family thing. Now I have to figure out what to do about the work thing.
My question is this: Do I HAVE to return to the same work situation? Assuming that the position has not been filled before I return, would I be breaking the law if I found a job somewhere else? I could quit my current job and take the new one if it was offered, but I don't want to do that if it is illegal.
The psychologist did suggest at one point that he could require certain workplace rules for my return. One of which might be that I not work with that woman. However, I doubt that can actually be done. It is a large studio and has thousands of employees, but jobs aren't available all over the place. Most positions are filled.
I won't go on and on about the work situation, but it was definitely hostile
and she was escalating her aggression towards me. I worked with the constant (unfair) threat of being written up and terminated. Every day there was some new issue. Almost everything was fabricated in her own mind. I expect my return would be a blood bath of carefully prepared complaints and continuing aggression. Since I expect my mother to be living with me, and possibly the adolescent nephew (who has plenty of problems) I really don't want to go back to an extremely challenging work situation if at all possible.
Thanks so much.
Oh, I haven't yet spoken to my union rep about all of this. She knows that the supervisor is a problem for her assistants but she has told me there is nothing we can do about it and that filing a grievance would be fairly useless and might even hurt my employment prospects.