Epilepsy Coping Work

Many people with epilepsy who have well-controlled seizures are perfectly capable of maintaining a successful and productive career in almost any field they choose. Some employers, however, may be wary of hiring someone with epilepsy for fear they will be less productive than a healthy employee, or become a medical liability. In many countries, there are laws that protect you from discrimination as a result of your epilepsy. An employer, for example, must have a valid reason for not hiring you, such as the presence of a more qualified applicant.

Disclosing Information about Epilepsy at Work

It is largely up to you to decide when to disclose information about your condition. You may wish to provide this information up front during the initial application process, or you may want to wait until just prior to accepting the job offer. Either way, providing an explanation and a letter from your doctor describing your syndrome and epilepsy symptoms could go a long way to putting your supervisor’s mind at ease about your condition.

Epilepsy Action (U.K.) advises that you disclose information about your seizures before your start date, so that if your supervisor needs to make any job-related accommodations for you to make the job safer, she can do so before you begin working.

It is also up to you to decide how much to disclose to your supervisor. However, if you don’t disclose information about your epilepsy symptoms and you have a seizure at work, you could be putting yourself or your co-workers at risk.

How much you disclose to your co-workers will likely depend on your level of seizure management. If your seizures are not well-controlled and you anticipate that you will likely have a seizure at work at some point, it is important for at least some of your co-workers to be aware of your epilepsy symptoms so that they know what to expect and what to do to help you during and after a seizure.

Work and Epilepsy: What Are Your Rights?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), epilepsy is considered a disability. Under this act, an employer with 15 or more employees:

  • Cannot discriminate against a job applicant based on his disability
  • Cannot exclude an individual from employment unless her disability prevents her from performing the job safely
  • Must provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with epilepsy (i.e. time off for doctor’s appointments) as long as these do not produce excessive financial or administrative burdens for the employer.

You may wish to consult your local epilepsy foundation to find out your country’s rules and regulations and how they apply to you.

Resources

Epilepsy Action Staff. (n.d.). Employment. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.org.au/employment.asp

Epilepsy Action Staff. (n.d.). Telling employers about your epilepsy. Retrieved April 5, 2010,from http://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/employees/telling.html

Epilepsy Ontario Staff. (n.d.). Epilepsy and employment. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyontario.org/client/EO/EOWeb.nsf/web/Epilepsy