I've always said that having a skin condition such as eczema shouldn't limit you from living your life. However, for some, it does. Especially if the medicine you’re taking isn’t working, or your flare-up is so bad it lands you in the hospital. Despite the fact that eczema patients are highly alert when it comes to taking care of our skin, we often overlook our work environment. Considering we spend most of our lives working, this is something that should be a top priority.
As someone who’s heard too many stories about this, I thought it was important to educate those living with eczema about filing disability in the workplace. ADA, otherwise known as The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, is a law that protects discrimination against individuals with disabilities. If you feel that your skin is debilitating to the point where it's affecting your work, then this guide is for you.
Understanding ADA protection
If you have a disability, yet are qualified to work, ADA protects you from job discrimination due to your disability. The ADA is to protect qualified, disabled persons from discrimination and to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
According to the ADA, a disability means you have a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits a major life activity.” The law protects you if you have “a history of disability, or if an employer believes that you have a disability, even if you don't.”
Important to note - you must first be qualified for the position, even with your disability. That is, you must satisfy the employer’s requirements for the job. You also must be able to perform the functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations.
Unlawful discrimination practices include:
- training job assignments
- lay off
- all other employment-related activities
Does your eczema qualify as a disability? Questions to ask yourself
Securing disability rights for eczema may require a little more effort on your part than other kinds of disabilities since the condition is still not widely understood. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not you should apply, but here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine your next steps.
- How severe is your skin condition? Try to define it. You should always be paying attention to your skin. If you find yourself in excruciating pain due to your eczema, that’s a problem that could be affecting your work life.
- What is the frequency of your flare-ups? Keep a good record of them as well as how many times you have you gone to see a doctor in the last month.
- What is your work environment like? Are there factors that contribute to your symptoms?
Other things to consider
Do your research. For those that are entering the workforce or are switching careers, do your research. Read thoroughly through the job description and company website. If you are signing a contract, it's extremely important to read the disability section and also disclose your disability if you qualify.
Understand your environment. For example, if you’re working in an old office building that is plagued with dust mites, this might contribute to your flare-ups.
Explore your options. If you’re someone that loves your job but has a difficult time in the work environment, see if there are work-from-home options or other accommodations that would ease your symptoms.
Ask your doctor. Most importantly, ask your doctor if you think you’ll qualify for disability based on your symptoms and/or frequent flare-ups.
Please note that ADA isn’t the only form of disability, as there are more options including extended leave.
Having eczema shouldn’t prevent you from pursuing meaningful work or limiting your productivity. It’s 2018, and it’s time to protect yourself and teach others that they can coexist with a NON-CONTAGIOUS skin condition!
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