Heavy-metal fan wins disability benefits for his “addiction” to music

Swedish metal fan Roger Tullgren says his love of heavy metal is a disability. The government employment service agreed, paying part of his wages.

Forty-two-year-old Roger Tullgren is like many other heavy-metal fans his age. He discovered the genre at the tender age of 5, when his brother brought home a Black Sabbath album. He’s been hooked ever since, and continues to listen to the music daily and dress in the heavy-metal uniform: long hair, band t-shirts, silver and leather jewelry, piercings, and so on.

Unlike other fans, Tullgren says his love of heavy metal interferes with his day-to-day functioning and qualifies as a disability. He spent 10 years and visited three different psychologists before finally establishing his case. Recently, he filed paperwork with the government employment service near Hässleholm, Sweden, where he lives. They have agreed to pay a portion of his wages while he works part-time as a dishwasher in a restaurant.

Meanwhile, his boss says it’s OK for Tullgren to listen to music while he works — as long as it isn’t too loud and doesn’t interfere with customers’ enjoyment of their meals.

The ageing rocker claims to have attended almost three hundred shows last year, often skipping work in the process.

Eventually his last employer tired of his absences and Tullgren was left jobless and reliant on welfare handouts.

But his sessions with the occupational psychologists led to a solution of sorts: Tullgren signed a piece of paper on which his heavy metal lifestyle was classified as a disability, an assessment that entitles him to a wage supplement from the job centre.

“I signed a form saying: ‘Roger feels compelled to show his heavy metal style. This puts him in a difficult situation on the labour market. Therefore he needs extra financial help’. So now I can turn up at a job interview dressed in my normal clothes and just hand the interviewers this piece of paper,” he said.

“Some might say that I should grow up and learn to listen to other types of music but I can’t. Heavy metal is my lifestyle,” he said.

I’m not going to comment on whether I think Tullgren’s approach is legitimate. As far as I’m concerned, that’s between him, his therapist, the Swedish government, and his boss. But it does speak to a certain aspect of heavy-metal fandom. For many people, especially the most dedicated, this is more than a form of entertainment. It’s more, even, than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle, a tribe, even a religion.

Given those parameters, it’s easy enough to compare participation in heavy metal culture to participation in any other culture: the Amish, Hasidism, Islam. It would be discriminatory for an employer to force someone from one of these groups to change the way he or she dresses or appears while on the job. For example, Hani Khan is suing Abercrombie & Fitch after they asked her — a stockroom worker — to stop wearing her hijab. Meanwhile, the International Weightlifting Federation recently changed its dress code so Muslim women can compete. Likewise, businesses are required to provide allowances for religious practices. Would attending heavy-metal shows qualify?

So when is it a “lifestyle choice,” and when is it one’s culture and creed? That’s a fine line to draw. What isn’t clear to me is why Tullgren went after a disability clearance rather than look at it as a fight for workplace equality. What do you think Tullgren should do?


7 responses to “Heavy-metal fan wins disability benefits for his “addiction” to music

  1. I think this is utterly ridiculous.

    Think of the pharmacists who say “I won’t dispense birth control because it would violate my religious principles.” What do you want to say to them? What I want to say is “Then get a different job.” This is the same thing.

    You don’t get to pick and choose which parts of a job you feel like doing. That’s what makes it a *job* and not, um, a *lifestyle*. Your lifestyle is something you choose, whether it’s branded monotheism or heavy metal or parkour or having sex with pudding, and as long as you’re not harming other people directly, it’s your call, buddy. But that stops as soon as you punch the clock. A job is a performance, and you only get to “be yourself” to the extent that it doesn’t interfere with the performance. So you may have to cover up those tattoos, tie that hair back, take out that nose ring, shave, take a shower, stop listening to your favorite music for a few hours — oh yeah, and bother showing up at all, instead of blowing off work to go to your 300th concert of the year.

    I mean. That is some arrogance right there.

    • As I said to the other commenter, I wonder if this man has some other underlying issue which makes it difficult for him to hold down a job — an actual disability — and this is just the way it manifests itself.

  2. HeavyMetalBeast666

    Beth – Goofy. This guy has problems with impulse control and desire to forego something he likes in order to participate in the earning workforce for a menial job. Heavy metal does not qualify as a religion – it’s an art form. If someone claimed ‘opera addiction’, ‘warhol addiction’, or a ‘romance-novel reading addiction’, should they be granted special dispensation? No. Would it be a good idea to get a job that honors that passion and makes it useful? Yes! Should this guy get a job as security or ticket sales at a heavy metal venue? Sounds like a good idea.

    • I do wonder if this man has some other underlying issue which makes it difficult for him to hold down a job — an actual disability — and this is just the way it manifests itself.

  3. This is very offensive to people with actual disabilities who can get neither a job nor a disability grant if their disability is not visible for instance, although I’m not sure to what extent that happens in Sweden. Why didn’t he sue for workplace equality when he got fired? That he *can* do that and receive compensation further shows that it is not a disability. His lifestyle is more valid than many religions which serve as crutches to people and for which they can take days off. That’s what a proud metalhead would do, or better still, find a job in the metal scene, at metalfests, or metal clubs. FFS it’s Sweden not some freaking country where one wouldn’t find such a job.

  4. I agree with Inter, and I agree with what commenters said on the other thread, that this story – intentionally or unintentionally – paints a pretty unsympathetic view of this guy. I get – from the writing – that he’s just a somewhat unmotivated metalhead who isn’t willing to put in the work to either meld his 2 worlds, or just get a better job.
    If that’s the case, leave him aside, he’s a parasite.
    If he does in fact have a medical condition, some sort of ACTUAL, medically-evaluated condition causing this, like OCD, crippling social anxiety that the music alleviates, etc, then it’s another issue, and he deserves proper care for that condition, not for liking metal.
    It’s just like I said, using the analogy of students in my classes. If a kid doesn’t read because he wants to play Angry Birds all day, he’s S.O.L, if a kid doesn’t want to read because he’s dyslexic, then we make accomodations, he listens to the book, or gets an extra day. We serve the need, we don’t reward the deed (OH SNAP!!)
    But liking metal, following a religion, having physical relations with dolls, it’s all a choice made by a person, and if he’s unable to get a better job because he needs to listen to music, or wear black, or have long greasy hair, that’s too bad. Billions of people every day make small compromises for work, or for fashion, or whatever, and that’s just part of life.

  5. Pingback: Un suedez a fost diagnosticat cu dependenta de muzica – Gratis77 Online

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