A productive and satisfying work life is important to a person's overall quality of life and to having a healthy attitude toward oneself. Most persons with epilepsy are capable of productive and gratifying employment, but they may face severe discrimination in the job market. Employers may discriminate because of the stigma associated with epilepsy, misconceptions about its medical and social aspects, unfounded fears of legal and medical liability, and the misconception that people with epilepsy are not as productive as others. These biases have led to discrimination and considerable hardship, but new laws have begun to change the landscape of employment opportunities for people with epilepsy and other disabilities.
A person with epilepsy whose seizures are not well controlled should prepare for the possibility that a seizure may occur at work. The preparation will depend on the type and frequency of seizures. The first and most important step is to discuss the seizures with the supervisor and coworkers. They will be the first ones to see the seizure and to administer first aid. Depending on the work environment, the people, the relationships with coworkers, and the nature of the seizures, a person with epilepsy may choose to tell only a few people or everyone in the workplace. The person with epilepsy should never rely entirely on one coworker, however, especially if the seizures are frequent or intense, because that person may be on vacation or out of the office when a seizure occurs.
People can be told individually or in a group. Here area few tips to follow when discussing your epilepsy:
Vocational Rehabilitation: An Employment Guide for People with Epilepsy
Some employers still discriminate against those with epilepsy, even though such discrimination generally is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed in 1990.† Therefore, before applying for a job, it may be helpful for a person with epilepsy to speak with a representative of the local affiliate of the Epilepsy Foundation about the relevant laws and the restrictions preventing employers from asking questions about a job applicant's health. The applicant also could speak with the protection and advocacy staff of the state human rights commission, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), or a social worker who specializes in employment issues.
The ADA applies to all employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees in which at least 15 employees work for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks. The ADA excludes the federal government or other employers that receive a certain level of federal support (because they are subject to other similar regulations), as well as Indian tribes and private-membership clubs that are exempt from taxation.
Title I of the ADA provides that people with disabilities cannot be excluded from employment unless they are unable to perform the essential requirements of the job. An employer may not discriminate in: