I was working through a recruiter after being interviewed for a FED position (that's how they described it) for a shop where most programmers did at least some C# / full stack. During the interview, I clearly stated that I did not know C#, but had done (large amounts of) server-side Python and C, and would learn C# if desired.

I had intended to request a disability accommodation of 40 hours work per week, and yesterday my supervisor said that their chief client was mad and they wanted everybody to work "long hours." To quote a letter I sent the managing partner at my recruiter today:

I heard a bit more today. The team, in a meeting, acknowledged that management had asked for "more hours", and asked, "How much more?" And--this is the first time I've seen something like this happen--management refused to provide a number, saying, "If we say 10 hours, people will work ten hours and stop." (One of my colleagues said this was like saying, "Give me money," and when asked, "How much?" refused to give a number but just said, "Keep on giving me money and I'll tell you when it's enough.")

I explained that I had contacted my doctor for a formal letter of accommodation, and that there were serious health consequences possible for working that kind of hours. I also wrote,

Note: this is my own attempt to explain things, not simply a restatement of the laws:

My understanding of "reasonable accommodation" is modifying a change to a position (what would be asked by default) that will let an employee act and pursue a business's interests. Perhaps you've read Getting to Yes; I wrote a piece on interest-based negotiations in a friendly context at http://jonathanscorner.com/negotiation/ and talked about position-based and interest-based negotiations.

I would suggest that "work X many hours" is a position; productivity is an interest, and I talked during the phone call about what I could do to best serve [the client]'s interests. I have in the past been very productive with a 40 hour work week; "work overtime" is a position where "be productive" is an interest, and I am trying for friendly, win-win negotiation (I just told another programmer that I was available for comment on JavaScript development), where I can only succeed if my success includes seeing to my employer's success.

FWIW. This is largely personal opinion; a less opinion-based note is "Things go by a doctor's note."

This was after the managing partner read my original "I'm requesting accommodation" email to me, over the phone, word for word, at in a tone of voice I would consider the nonverbal equivalent of scare quotes, and said he was more or less clueless about what to do and asked who he should contact, e.g. the EEOC, to find out what to do with a request for accommodation. I stated that I didn't know but thought the EEOC would be good to contact, and said that usually people go by the doctor's note (I mentioned, wisely or not, one time where a boss tried to ran ramshod over my request for accommodation, and after I had said "40 hours is 40 hours," gave my work a severe indictment of professional incompetence until I pointed out that his requests were all either enhancements or a request to handle an ambiguity in the spec some other way, and then after that accused me of bad programming without ever volunteering a detail of what I'd done wrong, and then fired me).

That was this morning. This afternoon, he and the client's president announced that I was being termed, for cause, because I did not know C#. This much is of course true; I may have been using all unassigned time to read O'Reilly's "C# for experienced programmers in other languages" text, but I had been entirely transparent during the interview process and did not lead either recruiter or client to believe that I knew more C# than I in fact did.

What do I do from here?

And a related question: the contract stated that I owed two weeks notice, but the client did not know notice if I was termed for cause. Do I have any basis to say "I was transparent about my level of actual C# proficiency during the interview; not knowing C# is an excuse and you owe me two weeks' notice"?


  • 3
    I suspect you'll get downvoted because this is essentially a legal question and can only be answered in terms of one country's laws. You might want to see if you can rephrase the question to change the focus to be answerable by the rules of workplace. May 2, 2014 at 21:09
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    Your message to the managing partner wreaks of attitude and self-entitlement (in the spirit of honesty, sorry) - I wouldn't be surprised if this were actually the cause of the problem, and not your request for accommodation as such. I'm also struggling to follow the sequence of events here (work-wise, in the broader sense, not so much the request and related communications), although that might be due to a lack of having gone through a similar process before. May 2, 2014 at 21:15
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    Was there any reference to the 40 hour limitation in the interview? If not, while you may have been transparent on the C# point, the limitation on time may have made the company look for a reason to fire you.
    – JB King
    May 3, 2014 at 6:36
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    A work week of 40 hours is a disability accommodation ?! How long is a normal work week supposed to be ? May 3, 2014 at 15:51
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    @NicolasBarbulesco, some software companies may consider it reasonable for employees to work 60-80 hours a week.
    – JB King
    May 3, 2014 at 18:12

2 Answers 2


Under the circumstances as described, I would avoid dealing with this employer.

In times past federal government contractors made a habit of bidding on projects that included mandatory, and unpaid, overtime for salaried workers. This eventually got the attention of Congress, and they put some limits on such procurements. However, what those are is hard to tell from the links I've been able to find.

A keyword search on 'Federal Government Contract Mandatory Overtime' leads to this. All of the government documents that come back are massive - hundreds of pages. A number of attorneys have single page summaries.

In short, you're trying to work for an exploitative employer, and this is likely to get worse and worse. You had communications issues from day 1, and these won't stop. Therefore, the best thing to do is drop it and move on.

If you're in the Chicago area, Indeed.com is showing 1200 openings for C# programmers, and 800+ number for Python. There are lots of fish in that barrel.

The Wall Street Journal (among others) is full of horror stories about Illinois - political dysfunction and runaway taxation. Businesses in that part of the country may be in a jam, and this is what they have to do to survive. Employers in Indiana or Wisconsin might be able to afford you under the terms you're requesting.

  • Where were this "mandatory" overtime demanded? In the public tender? Jun 23, 2015 at 18:53
  • Which congress? Jun 23, 2015 at 18:54
  • @NicolasBarbulesco its the USA the references to Fed make that clear Jun 26, 2018 at 11:17

One reason companies hire people via agencies is to avoid typical HR hassles. You are creating issues and hassles for the client -- limiting work hours, "requesting accommodation," sending long emails, bringing in doctor's notes. The client company doesn't want to deal with any of that, they just want their work done.

The agency exists to protect the client company, not to accommodate you. Your continued requests make it clear it's not a one-time exception. You've brought this on yourself.

ps- you've heard of tl;dr? I would suggest you consider that concept when composing emails to your future bosses, or questions to this site. Not getting the concept is partly what got you fired.

  • "TL;DR" is typically a summarizing section that one can read instead of the whole thing. I don't think such a section would really be appropriate in a work e-mail, as an e-mail really should be short and to the point (lack of this is probably more the problem with the e-mail) - if a "TL;DR" section sufficiently summarizes, I'd wonder if the details mentioned in the rest of the e-mail is even important enough to mention at all. May 2, 2014 at 23:06
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    I'm not suggesting including a tl;dr section in an email, that is preposterous. Just the act of sending long drawn-out emails -- not necessarily their content -- was a big part of getting the OP fired (although in this case, the content didn't help matters)
    – ExactaBox
    May 2, 2014 at 23:20
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    -1 for "You've brought this on yourself". Based upon the question, the OP has a legitimate disability and a medical note to back it up, and is likely entitled to the accommodations requested. Disabled people have not brought their disabilities upon themselves. They are not to blame for any accommodations they require. And employers are not generally entitled to demand that people work whatever arbitrary hours they choose, however much they may want to.
    – aroth
    May 3, 2014 at 1:46
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    @aroth Why doesn't the OP already have a diagnosis from a doctor? What disability has no symptoms until the 41st hour of the workweek? Why did he not disclose this disability to the agency or the company prior to this job assignment? Why can the OP write 12 paragraphs -- including links to his blog, listing the books that he has read, etc -- and never actually name his condition? Why didn't the OP know what accommodation he needed, or who to contact, when specifically asked by the managing partner?
    – ExactaBox
    May 4, 2014 at 16:40
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    @aroth Why couldn't the OP have addressed the entire thing in a 2-sentence email: "I have been diagnosed with a specific condition called X which doesn't allow me to work beyond 40 hours. Attached is a doctor's note, and some web links for more information on my condition." His lack of brevity and respect for the boss's time is his primary undoing.
    – ExactaBox
    May 4, 2014 at 16:45

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