Returning to work after a seizure may seem daunting to some. However, support is available. In the United States, there are laws to protect and assist people returning to the workplace after a seizure.
Federal laws protect people with a disability from workplace discrimination. These laws require employers to make reasonable adjustments to support a person with epilepsy.
This article looks at returning to work after a seizure, including steps in the process, tips for the transition, and more.
U.S. laws protect people returning to work after a seizure against discrimination.
The workplace should also make reasonable adjustments for a person with epilepsy, such as keeping their workspace safe and training colleagues on responding when a person has a seizure.
Many employers will be supportive and may have disability specialists to make the workplace accessible and inclusive.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regards epilepsy as a disability due to the impact of seizures on everyday life, including potentially needing to take medication to manage or prevent seizures.
The ADA is a federal law that protects anyone with epilepsy from workplace discrimination. It prohibits employers from refusing to hire someone or terminating their job because they have epilepsy.
If a person has taken leave off work due to epilepsy, the ADA states that an employer may ask for relevant medical information to assess the employee’s current ability to carry out their job safely.
The ADA also states that an employee with epilepsy may be unable to provide a set date for returning to work. They may require extended leave and may only be able to provide an estimate of when they can return. However, an employee will need to provide an employer with updates on the possible date of their return.
A person and their employer may need to consider the responsibilities involved in the role and how epilepsy may affect their health and safety in the workplace.
Some things to consider include:
- Does the job involve working from heights or close to water?
- Does it involve using heavy machinery or any other potentially dangerous equipment?
- Does the person work alone or alongside others who can help if they have a seizure?
- Is the person responsible for others during work hours, such as children?
In some specific jobs, having epilepsy may pose a risk to the person’s health or safety or that of others.
However, an employer cannot terminate a person’s job without assessing individual risks and considering reasonable adjustments.
Adjustments may include:
- making the workspace safer in case of a seizure
- avoiding lone working
- swapping some job tasks with another employee
People do not need to tell an employer they have had a seizure unless they want to or need to ask for reasonable accommodations.
If people decide to tell an employer about a seizure, the Epilepsy Foundation recommends:
- telling an employer about the type of seizure they had and whether this was their first one
- explaining whether they may have more seizures and how frequently these may occur
- explaining if seizures may affect job performance
- being calm, confident, and as well-informed as possible
The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with epilepsy.
This may include things such as:
- providing a private area for people to rest after having a seizure
- allowing breaks for taking medications
- providing a rubber mat or carpeting to protect against falls
It may also require adjusting the work schedule and allowing time off for:
- diagnostic tests to find the cause of seizures
- treatment and adjusting to medications
- recovery from seizures or side effects of antiseizure drugs
An employee can tell their employer of the reasonable accommodations they require. They may need to provide documentation as evidence of epilepsy.
People may want to discuss creating a seizure action plan with their employer and colleagues. This action plan informs people about what may happen during a seizure and how they can help.
Depending on the type of seizure a person has, they may recover quickly and be able to return to work shortly afterward, or they may require a private place to rest and recover.
If it takes longer to recover after a seizure, a person may need to go home afterward. The seizure action plan will detail how they will get home and whether they need someone to travel with them.
Employers can also inform a person’s colleagues about seizure first aid to use in an emergency.
An employer may need to conduct a health and safety risk assessment to ensure the person can safely carry out their work.
They may ask certain questions, such as:
- Are the seizures effectively managed?
- How frequently do seizures occur?
- What happens during a seizure?
- Are there any warning signs?
- Do seizures happen at a particular time or due to any triggers?
- How does the person feel afterward?
- Do they require any seizure first aid?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes epilepsy as a disability under certain conditions.
This means people can apply for disability benefits if they meet the SSA criteria.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employment discrimination is different or less favorable treatment a person experiences at work. This may include treatment from a co-worker, manager, or business owner.
Disability discrimination is any unfair treatment or harassment relating to a person’s disability. Workplace discrimination may also include:
- denial of reasonable accommodations for people with a disability
- improper questions about a person’s disability
- disclosure of a disability or medical information
- retaliation after a person has complained about discrimination or filed a discrimination charge
The EEOC protects people against discrimination in the workplace. If someone feels they have experienced employment discrimination, they can file a charge through the EEOC.
People can usually return to work after a seizure. It is up to the individual whether they want to tell their employer about the seizure or the condition that caused it.
People who experience seizures may need to ask an employer for reasonable accommodation to help support them in the workplace. Federal laws protect people with epilepsy from workplace discrimination based on a disability.