As someone living and working with epilepsy, you may have questions about your legal rights on the job. The Epilepsy Foundation’s Jeanne A. Carpenter Legal Defense Fund—which fights epilepsy discrimination by offering legal help, advice, and advocacy to people
living with epilepsy—is always available as a resource.
In addition, here are five tips from an interview with Allison Nichol, director of legal advocacy for the Epilepsy Foundation, that may help you navigate working with epilepsy.
What are my rights at work?
“People with epilepsy are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (the Rehabilitation Act if you are a federal employee), a federal civil rights law. You may also have rights under the laws of your state or territory. The ADA provides protections from discrimination in all aspects of your work, from rights during your interview, terms and conditions of your employment, the right to reasonable accommodations if needed to perform the major functions of your job, protection around promotions and termination as well as equal benefits.”
Do I have to disclose my condition in a job interview?
“You do not have to disclose your medical condition during a job interview. The employer cannot ask you directly or indirectly if you have medical conditions(s) at any point prior to making you an offer of employment.”
Am I covered under the ADA? What is "Reasonable Accommodation"?
“As long as your employer is covered by the ADA, you are covered. A ‘reasonable accommodation’ is a change to the way the job is normally performed that allows someone to continue to perform the essential or major functions of the job. That might include a different start or departure time, leave, use of equipment or devices, among others.”
Does the Family and Medical Leave Act apply to me?
“If you have questions as to whether your employer is covered by the FMLA, you
should contact your HR department. Under the FMLA, employees are generally entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a certain period of time in a given year. Personal illness is a qualifying event under the FMLA. People who take paid sick leave first will also be docked that same amount of time under the FMLA because it is a FMLA qualifying event.”
Where can I get legal advice?
“If you feel you have been discriminated against in your employment because you
are a person with epilepsy, you have a right to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you want to consult with an attorney, you can contact your local state bar association or the National Employment Lawyers Association. You can also contact the Jeanne A. Carpenter Legal Defense Fund at the Epilepsy Foundation. The Defense Fund does not take on individual clients but may be able to help you locate legal resources in your area.
Disclaimer: Nothing published in EpilepsyAdvocate should be interpreted as providing legal or medical advice.