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Epilepsy and Workplace Discrimination: Top Questions Answered

Last updated: July 2022

Navigating the workforce is challenging with a chronic illness. Often questions arise before and after employment about your rights.

What should I disclose and when? What can an employer ask and not ask? These are some questions and answers for considering your epilepsy diagnosis at work.

When applying for a job with epilepsy

Can an employer ask whether I have epilepsy when applying for a job?

No. A potential employer is not permitted to ask any questions about your medical history. They cannot compel you to undergo a medical exam before making a provisional job offer. They may require a medical exam for all provisional employees. Singling you out based on suspicion of chronic illness violates your rights.1,2

Questions they cannot ask:

  • Do you have a chronic illness (epilepsy or seizures)?
  • Do you use prescription drugs?

Questions they can ask:

  • Can you operate heavy equipment or machinery?
  • Do you have a driver's license?

What can an employer ask me if I share my epilepsy diagnosis when applying for a job?

A potential employer cannot ask anything related to your medical history. They can ask questions about what reasonable accommodations you may need in this position.1,2

Questions they cannot ask:

  • When were you diagnosed with epilepsy?
  • What drugs do you take to manage your disease?

Questions they can ask:

  • What accommodations would you require to do the job?

Epilepsy in the workplace

Should I tell my employer I have epilepsy?

That is a personal choice that everyone will decide differently. It may not be necessary if you have well-controlled epilepsy that does not require accommodations. If you anticipate episodes at work, you might disclose to a few colleagues. You must decide what is best for you.1,2

Can my employer discuss my epilepsy with my coworkers? What if I have a seizure at work?

In most instances, your employer may not discuss your epilepsy. Your medical information remains private. They cannot provide a detailed explanation if you have a seizure at work. They can reassure concerned coworkers that you are okay.

You can choose to give more details to your coworkers. Educating colleagues on how to help you and what to watch for can be helpful in some circumstances. What you disclose to coworkers is your choice, not your employer's.

There are a few circumstances where an employer may share some information. Ensuring your work accommodations may require speaking with your manager. Safety officers may have the information. Your employer can also share details with:1,2

  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) investigations
  • Insurance claims
  • Workers' compensation reports

Are there instances where my employer can ask me about my epilepsy?

Yes. Sometimes reasonable concerns will arise for your employer. They can ask questions about your ability to perform certain aspects of your job. These questions usually relate to your ability to perform a task. Asking if your epilepsy poses a danger to yourself or others in the position is appropriate.

Your employer can ask for medical support if you have requested reasonable accommodation. They cannot demand you submit your entire medical history. Your doctor may need to provide a general written statement about your epilepsy. The focus is an assurance of your current ability to perform the job. Past circumstances are not relevant to your current employer.1,2

Questions they cannot ask:

  • Were you ever dismissed from a job due to your epilepsy?
  • How often do you have seizures?

Questions they can ask:

  • Are you able to drive to meet a client?
  • Can you ensure accurate packaging of products?
  • Does the machinery pose a danger to you if you have a seizure?

What are examples of reasonable work accommodations for epilepsy?

Reasonable accommodations will vary for each person and company. Requests cannot pose an undue burden on the company. If a request is too expensive or disruptive, they can refuse. Some reasonable accommodations include:1,2

  • A place to rest following a seizure
  • A mat to protect you in the event of a fall
  • Breaks to take medication
  • A work schedule that accommodates your seizure patterns (starting late, not working the night shift, etc.)
  • The ability to bring a service animal to work
  • Leave for seizure recovery or a treatment-adjustment period
  • Temporary or permanent work-from-home option

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The EpilepsyDisease.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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