Multiple Sclerosis and Worker Rights
Now that you've been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), it is important to know your rights under the law to make your working life easier. The progressive nature of the condition and its physical challenges mean at some point you may need special accommodations at work to continue doing your job at full capacity.
While you may feel nervous about broaching the topic with your employer, it should empower you to know that you have some control over your working situation. Under the law, you are protected against discrimination: Your employer cannot legally fire you for having MS; hinder you from promotion; or deny training, leave and benefits. Here, other essential points you need to know:
Disclosing Your MS Diagnosis
By law, you are not obligated to tell your employer that you have multiple sclerosis, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. However, withholding this information could delay your employer from making accommodations for you should you need them. Only you can decide when to notify your employer about your multiple sclerosis diagnosis. When you do, ask for confidentiality if you want to keep your medical details private. Some employers are required to keep any information on your medical condition in a separate medical file.
MS and Asking for Job Accommodations
You may not need extra help performing your job right now, but if and when the need arises, don't hesitate to request accommodations. If your job employs more than 15 people, it is your right to have "reasonable" accommodations made for you so that you can perform "essential" job tasks, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here are some examples of accommodations you might request:
- using flex time for doctors' appointments
- shifting your desk closer to the rest room or to a lower floor (so you can avoid climbing stairs). You can also request a spot away from sources of heat, such as heaters and sun-filled windows.
- memory aids and magnifying screens to help vision
- reserved parking and wheelchair accessibility
- short-term disability leave
Special accommodations can be made if you request them. Some companies may ask you to file formal paperwork with a specific department, such as human resources.
For more information on employment and MS, visit:Disability.gov
R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen
Equality and Human Rights Commission. Your Rights to Equal Treatment and Independence in Everyday Life. Available at: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/your-rights/disability/the-law-about-disability-discrimination/your-rights-to-equal-treatment-and-independence-in-everyday-life/ Accessed on June 20, 2011
United States Department of Labor. Americans with Disabilities Act. Available at: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/disability/ada.htm Accessed on June 20, 2011
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employees and Job Applicants. Available at: http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/index.cfm Accessed on June 20, 2011