How do you work with Migraines? Migraine disease is recognized by the World Health Organization as one of top 20 most disabling conditions worldwide, and this is no surprise to any of us who have tried to function during a severe Migraine attack. It is possible to receive disability status if your Migraines are frequent and severe enough, and I will be writing more about that soon. For most of us, disability will not be the best option - for a number of reasons, we will need to try our best to stay employed.
~This sharepost is legal education, not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created.~
There is no perfect answer, but there are several laws that protect you here in the U.S. I've posted several articles lately about your rights: to be free from workplace discrimination for having Migraines and to receive accommodation to make it possible to work with Migraines (under the ADA) Working with Migraines: Rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to receive unpaid time off when you need it due to your Migraines (under the FMLA) When Migraines Make You Miss Work: Intermittent Leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Some months ago we had a question asked here on My Migraine Connection where a member's employer was trying to get her to trade off her FMLA leave for accommodations under the ADA. While dealing with these laws may be a Human Resources challenge for employers, they need to understand that the two laws are not mutually exclusive - employees don't have to choose to use one or the other. You can exercise your rights under both.
The member had been using intermittent FMLA leave when needed for a severe Migraine. She experienced a change in her Migraine pattern (as often happens) and the Migraines became more frequent. At around the same time her employer transferred her to a location with more light and noise than where she had previously worked. Her doctor wrote a letter to her employer requesting a transfer back to the original location as an accommodation, informing them that the new location would trigger more Migraines and cause her to miss more work. The employer responded that they would make the accommodation if she gave up her FMLA status.
The fast answer to her question was an unequivocal "No, they are not allowed to do that!" The ADA requires that employers make "reasonable accommodations" to make it possible for their otherwise qualified employees with a known disability to perform their job functions. The employer was well aware of her disability, and already had a letter from her doctor about the effect of the work environment on her Migraines. For a Migraineur, reasonable accommodations under the ADA could include adjustments to the lighting, and sound in the work area, assigning a better shift time, or rearranging work schedules in a way to make it less likely to trigger Migraines, among other things. The employer is not required to agree to a particular accommodation, but must propose an alternative.