Employment Rights for People with Epilepsy - What's New?

Epilepsy News From:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Finding and keeping a job is important for everyone, but much more difficult for people with epilepsy. Did you know that unemployment rates of people who have uncontrolled seizures has been estimated at 5 times the national average and in some studies, up to 50%! This employment inequity is outrageous! While many factors related to one’s seizures or other personal factors may contribute to under or unemployment, inequality in workplace policies and procedures also exist. The Epilepsy Foundation is actively involved in the fight for employment and other legal rights for people with epilepsy.

Angela Ostrom, Vice President of Government Affairs and Advocacy for the Foundation, shares with us updated information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC) in the United States – see Questions and Answers about Epilepsy in the Workplace and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). This document now includes updates to the ADA Amendments Act (called ADAAA) that are helpful for employees with epilepsy. I encourage everyone to read the entire document. Some highlights include:

  1. Epilepsy as a Disability: People with epilepsy will be easily found to have a disability under the ADAAA. The document specifically states that determination of disability is made even if medications, surgery or other treatments are used to help control seizures.

  2. Asking about Epilepsy: An employer may not ask if a person has epilepsy before they are offered a job.

  3. Asking about Job Qualifications: An employer can ask about a person’s qualifications for a job, for example whether a person has a driver’s license or can work with heavy machinery.

  4. Disclosing Epilepsy: If a person applying for a job discloses that he or she has epilepsy and the potential employer “reasonably believes the applicant will require an accommodation to perform the job because of epilepsy or treatment, the employer may ask if he needs an accommodation and what type.”

  5. Asking for Medical Information: An employer can ask for medical information when performance problems are seen that may be associated with epilepsy or observes symptoms or obtains information that a person’s epilepsy may be causing performance issues.

  6. Confidentiality of Medical Information: The EEOC states that an employer cannot tell other employees (co-workers and other managers) about an employee's health condition, even if co-workers witness the person having a seizure in the workplace.

  7. Accommodations: More in-depth information is given about the types of documentation that can be requested regarding the need for reasonable accommodations for employees with epilepsy. While not all requests must be granted, steps are outlined to aide employers in evaluating reasonable accommodations and how these impact job functions.

  8. Safety: New information on safety and whether an employer can require an employee with seizures to submit periodic doctor’s notes about whether his epilepsy is under control is addressed in this document.

I hope this document is helpful as you navigate your way through the workforce. It’s important that everyone is aware of their employment rights and responsibilities and that we continue to strive for full and safe employment for people with seizures and epilepsy.

Email feedback to legalrights@efa.org on this recent EEOC document, found at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/epilepsy.cfm, to:

Angela Ostrom, Esq., Vice President Government Affairs and Advocacy

Cherree Sanders, Manager/Paralegal,Jeanne A. Carpenter Legal Defense Fund

Best wishes for a safe and productive week!

Authored by: Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN on 6/2013

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The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

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