The Legal Ramifications of Epilepsy Discrimination in the Workplace: How to Recognize Discrimination and Advocate for Yourself
| Read Time: 3 minutes | Disability Discrimination

If you have epilepsy, your medical condition may affect your ability to work in specific roles or during episodes. However, it should not impact your ability to hold down a job.  

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination by employers and potential employers. And the ADA’s protections apply to individuals with epilepsy. If you are seeking employment and are concerned about protecting yourself from mistreatment because of your epilepsy, we can put your mind at ease. King & Siegel LLP is an award-winning employment law firm that can protect you from unlawful employment discrimination

Is Epilepsy a Disability Under Federal Law?

Under the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees cannot make adverse decisions against a qualified employee or job applicant because of their disability. If an employer violates this law, an employee or job candidate can recover remedies by filing a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

So, is epilepsy a disability under federal law? Yes. Epilepsy qualifies as a disability under federal and state law. 

The ADA defines a disability as a condition that substantially limits a major life activity. Someone with epilepsy can encounter many limitations because of their symptoms. Limitations can include physical or mental incapacitation during a seizure and fatigue or disorientation after a seizure. And if you no longer experience epileptic seizures but have had a history of epilepsy, employment discrimination laws protect you from employer misconduct as well. 

Do I Need to Disclose that I Have Epilepsy?

If you have epilepsy, you generally do not have to tell a current or prospective employer. Your medical condition is your private business. However, the level of privacy you can expect regarding your epilepsy depends on the demands of your job and whether you need accommodations.

During a Job Interview or on an Application

You do not need to tell a potential employer whether you have epilepsy. If your epilepsy prevents you from fulfilling job obligations, you should be straightforward about your limitations. However, you do not have to state that epilepsy is the reason for your limits. 

After You Start Working

The law puts many restrictions on employers asking questions about their employees’ disabilities. If an employer already has information about an employee’s disability or it observes job performance issues that indicate a medical condition, the employer can ask the employee for a limited amount of medical information. If you find yourself in this situation, speak to an experienced attorney before you disclose anything. Sometimes an employer needs to address performance problems through its general policies before it can inquire about your health. 

Can an Employer Not Hire You Because You Have Epilepsy?

Firing or refusing to hire an employee only because the employee has epilepsy is employment discrimination, and it is illegal. If a job candidate is qualified for the position, a disability cannot be the reason an employer fails to hire them. The ADA considers someone qualified for a job if they are able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. 

If you cannot fulfill an essential function of the job because of your condition, an employer is within its rights to deny you employment. For instance, if your epilepsy prevents you from driving, an employer could legally refuse to hire you for a job that requires you to drive a company car majority of the time. But if a position requires that you drive only 5% of the time and you can perform all other job functions without limitation, it is unlikely that an employer can legally use your epilepsy to deny you employment. 

Are There Work Restrictions for Epilepsy?

Yes, there can be work restrictions for epilepsy. Your epilepsy could affect your ability to drive safely, be around flashing lights, or work in high-stress environments. If your job requires one of these capabilities and you have epilepsy-related limitations, you need to let your employer know. 

What About Reasonable Accommodations?

What if you are qualified for a job, but your epilepsy makes some aspects of your work more difficult? In this situation, you have the right to reasonable accommodations. 

A reasonable accommodation is any change made to an application process, job, or work environment that enables an employee or candidate with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Employer accommodations for epilepsy could include the following:

  • Job restructuring,
  • Extra breaks,
  • Modified schedules,
  • Assistive devices,
  • Changes in the workspace, and
  • Leave. 

An accommodation is reasonable if it does not cause an employer undue hardship, meaning it is not prohibitively expensive or difficult to provide. Whether an accommodation is reasonable is unique to each case and should be reviewed by a lawyer. 

King & Siegel Can Help

You have a right to make a living, and our skilled employment discrimination attorneys at King & Siegel can help ensure that you are treated fairly at work. We are lawyers with top-level training and education who are dedicated to protecting workers all around California.

If you have concerns about suffering discrimination at your workplace or during a job hunt, reach out to us. You can call us or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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