The last time I applied for a job, I had to get clearance from my employer’s doctor prior to employment. My employer wanted to make sure that I was healthy enough to work with my chronic health conditions—a torn hip labrum and occasional back pain from my car accident several years ago. I had to get a note from my doctor stating that I am healthy enough to work. It was the first time I was put through the wringer for my health by a future employer.
When you are diagnosed with a long term health problem
If you are diagnosed with a long term health problem such as arthritis or multiple sclerosis, do you feel obligated to tell your employer? Not only does a long term health problem impacts the cost of your health care, it can also impact your earning power.
It is natural to want to put off telling your employer. However, if your long term health problem is preventing you from doing certain parts of your job, putting off the discussion is not an option. Though there are laws protecting workers with long term health problems, you are not protected if you are fired or demoted before you tell your boss.
Preparing to tell your boss about your long term health problem
Before talking to your boss, find out what “reasonable” accommodations you might need from your doctor. For example, if your maintenance medication makes you drowsy in the morning, a “reasonable” accommodation might be starting your workday at 10am instead of 8am. You can find out more about reasonable accommodations from this website.
When you request accommodations, be as specific as possible and offer more than one option. Keep written records of all your discussions and try to keep the focus on coming up with solutions rather than your long term health problem.
What are your rights if you have a long term health condition?
Under federal law, if you work for a company with 15 or more employees, your employer cannot fire you for a long term health condition if you can perform the “essential” functions of your job with accommodations. However, if you need to take a large amount of leave for your long term health problem, you are only protected under FMLA if your company has 50 or more employees.
Your employer has the right to offer to move you to another position with the same pay as long as there is a position open. However, when there is no open position and they cannot accommodate your long term health condition, they can offer you another position with less pay.
If you feel that your employer is hostile about your health condition, you might want to consult with an employment lawyer. An employment lawyer can set you back several hundred dollars, but it would be worth it if an employment lawyer can protect your job. You can find a lawyer here.
However, don’t count on suing an employer for discrimination on your long term health problem. While federal laws might offer some protection, you only have a 25% chance of winning a case against your employer for discrimination.
Am I glad that I disclosed my health problem? Yes, I am. Sure, there was a breathless moment waiting for the employer’s doctor to approve the manager’s decision to hire me, but I do not have to worry about this health problem with this employer again. After all, we are both going into this with our eyes open.
Until next time and thanks for reading Small Steps to Health. If you like what you are reading, please share it with your friends.
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