Continuing to hold down a job is tough when you have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. If you're lucky, you have an employer who is willing to accommodate your illness, especially since the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) is open to interpretation. Proving you qualify for reasonable accommodation, and what is reasonable accommodation for your illness, could be a long, hard legal battle. A new amendment to the ADA, however, could help us tremendously.
Part of the ADA's definition of "disability" has always been "an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity." The definition of major life activity is now expanded. It contains two lists - one of abilities and one of major bodily functions - that all are now considered to impact major life activity.
Impairments of these abilities are specifically covered under the ADA amendment: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.
Major Bodily Functions List
Impairments of these bodily functions are specifically covered under the ADA amendment, even when they're not readily apparent from looking at or talking with someone: functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.
Also, the amendment clarifies that an impairment that's in remission does count as a disability, as long as it would be an impairment when active. That means we're covered both during and in between flares.
What is "Reasonable Accommodation"?
Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to their employees with disabilities, but what would be a reasonable accommodation for us?
That all depends on which symptoms limit your ability to do your job. It could mean:
- A more comfortable chair
- Dimmer lighting
- A glare screen for your computer
- Moving your work area farther away from an enterance (away from cold bursts of air)
- Later start times
- Longer, more frequent breaks
- Reassignment to a different position
- An assigned parking space near the door
- Providing instructions in writing instead of verbally
This is only a list of examples - think about measures that would make it easier for you to do your job, then talk to your boss about them.
If you think you're being discriminated against or denied your rights under the ADA, contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or call the national number: 1-800-669-4000 (TTD - 1-800-669-6820.)
- Read more about the ADA, the new amendment, and how to go about getting reasonable accommodations from your employer.
Have you found accommodations that help you keep working? Have you had to fight for your rights? Are you happy about the amendment? Share your opinions and experiences by leaving a comment below!
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