Career Support Center
Is employment affected by epilepsy?
Most people with epilepsy are able to work in the full range of jobs. Neither the condition itself nor the treatments for it will affect their ability to work. There are people with epilepsy serving successfully in every walk of life.
Unfortunately, epilepsy is often still stigmatized and people face discrimination. Sometimes people are reluctant to tell their employers they have epilepsy or seizures because they learn through bitter experiences that it can be used against them.
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People with epilepsy can face significant challenges in the workplace, and many advocacy efforts are underway to increase the employment and success rates for people with epilepsy in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to prohibit disability-based discrimination. Many provisions of the ADA have particular impact on people with epilepsy, including inclusion for safety-sensitive jobs and reasonable accommodation.
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Employment with Epilepsy
Understand key issues that arise when people with epilepsy function in the workplace.
Credit:Epilepsy.com/Epilepsy Therapy Project
Getting a Job
Today people with epilepsy are working at hundreds of different kinds of jobs from one end of the country to the other. Many of these people have excellent seizure control, but not all of them do. Having occasional (or even fairly frequent) seizures may make your job hunt more difficult, but not impossible. Find out more about finding employment.
People with epilepsy are able to perform a wide array of jobs safely and effectively and are successfully employed in a variety of jobs that might be considered high-risk: police officer, firefighter, welder, butcher, construction worker, etc. Depending on the degree of seizure control, it is entirely possible that a person with epilepsy may pose no greater risk on the job than the average person without epilepsy. There are some jobs, however, where the perceived risk to public safety is so high that the federal government has established rules limiting who can perform these jobs.
For more information, visit our safety-sensitive jobs overview, where you can review specific job categories for information about how federal laws regulating the occupation affect people with epilepsy.
You may want to change jobs for reasons that have nothing to do with epilepsy. Or, you may have to change jobs because of your seizure disorder. Regardless of the reasons, there are some issues—like transportation, health care, disability insurance and retirement funds—to keep in mind if you decide to look for a new job. Review these issues in changing jobs.
Epilepsy as a Disability
Many courts have recognized epilepsy as a disability and that many people with a history of epilepsy are considered disabled because of the varied nature of seizures.
The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who are able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. Find out about reasonable accommodations for people with epilepsy or visit our advocacy section for more information about efforts to strengthen and reinforce the ADA.
Missing Work and Your Rights Under Federal Law
While many people with epilepsy are able to maintain regular employment without interruption, others may need to miss work because of seizures, changes in medication, or to visit a doctor for regular monitoring. The federal laws that protect employees are known as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Find out more about missing work and your rights.
Permissible Medical Exams and Inquiries
Prior to the offer of a job, an employer may not ask whether an applicant has a disability, inquire about the severity of a disability, or make any inquiry that is likely to elicit information about a disability. Once employment begins, an employer may make disability-related inquiries and require medical examinations only if they are "job-related and consistent with business necessity." Find out more about permissible medical exams and inquiries.
Financially Surviving a Leave of Absence
It's possible that your seizure disorder may require you to take a leave of absence from your job--at least for a while. If you have made that decision, there are several areas you should explore so you can weather this change. Find out more about taking a leave of absence.