Employment and epilepsy disclosure!

Finding employment is tough at the best of times, but even more if you have have epilepsy it’s even tougher, WHY?

You have to consider the following:

1.Your career choice is a difficult process anyway, even more when you can’t drive, your own personal safety and that of  others.

2.The process of finding employment and when to disclose your condition is a difficult experience.

3.The fear of discrimination and ignorance decreases chances of being hired or even promoted.

Most people who have epileptic seizures, do so by their mid to late teens. Therefore when old enough to be of age to learn to drive will of gone through the stages of acceptance,that being qualified to do so will never happen.

Thus when taking careful consideration of your career, despite your usual reasons of choice: interests,passion,skills which can be based on your personality and your values. You have to take in account your own safety(and those of your co workers etc) as to the potential of having a seizure in a workplace environment.

An environment that is office based or anything that doesn’t require driving as a job requirement, which is not easy in this day and age. You need to consider a location where there is good public transportation.

When you have come up with a suitable career choice, you then start applying and then the hurdle is of going to interviews,and filling out application forms with the fear you won’t get hired because you have disclosed you have epilepsy. If you did ,was it because you weren’t the right candidate eg lack of experience, knowledge,qualifications OR was it really the employers fear or ignorance of the epilepsy condition ie don’t want the responsibility/hindrance.

There is no correct or perfect solution to this dilemma, unfortunately. In my experience, honesty is the best advice, for application forms I would write in the medical section: epilepsy- but well controlled…which was generally true, and then they occurred  at home. I have disclosed  this at the interview stage only, when I was hired. I have also disclosed this information, when I was in the company for a period of time, and therefore they knew I could do the job, was reliable,punctual and had very few sick days.

This is where your knowledge and education about epilepsy condition and the law is the key:

You therefore have to decide yourself when you do or don’t disclose this information as I have done. There is NO RIGHT TIME TO DISCLOSE. In most cases prospective employers can ask if you have any specific diseases, medications,hospitalizations. The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states ‘ Before making an offer of employment an employer may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may be asked about their ability to perform job functions.’

They also state ‘ A job offer may be conditioned on the results of a medical examination, but only if the the examination is required for all entering employees in the same job category.Medical examinations of employees must be job related and consistent with the business necessity’.

Work situations may be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) , A federal law that offers protection to those with disabilities for companies with 15 or more employees. Most states have their own laws supplementary to the ADA, and they sometimes apply to smaller companies as well.The ADA protects against discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, training,pay, promotions, benefits, and leave.

You therefore have the right to be free from harassment because of your disability, and an employer may not fire you or discipline you for asserting your rights under the ADA.

Therefore to summarize on disclosure:

On a job application:

  • Peace of mind/honesty  OR may disqualify you with no opportunity to represent yourself

During the Interview:

  • Opportunity to briefly discuss specific issues/concerns OR puts the responsibility on you to handle epilepsy issues clearly

After the interview/when job is offered:

  • If disclosure is revealed and they change the hiring position (Possible legal action) this may lead to Mistrust

After you start work:

  • Opportunity to prove yourself and doesn’t affect ability with peers OR nervousness or fear of possible seizure/ employer accusing you of falsifying your application and identify who you need to tell.

I hope everyone finds this useful and somewhat reassuring.

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