By Holly Bertone, CNHP, PMP
Two very common symptoms of many with autoimmune disease are fatigue and joint pain, both of which are "invisible." The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer (undue hardship).
A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment (or in the way things are usually done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.
An employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless the employer can show that the accommodation would be an undue hardship - that is, it would require significant difficulty or expense. Undue hardship means the accommodation would be too difficult or too expensive to provide, in light of the employer’s size, financial resources and the needs of the business. An employer may not refuse to provide an accommodation just because it involves some cost. An employer does not have to provide the exact accommodation the employee or job applicant wants. If more than one accommodation works, the employer may choose which one to provide.
For those struggling with fatigue, accommodations might include extra rest periods, reduced hours or the ability to work at home. Your life is not just about your work, and you only have so much energy to expend on any given day. You still need to function during those 16 hours of the day that you are not at your job. Conserving energy is crucial.
According to the Job Accommodation Network, there is no comprehensive list of accommodations that must be provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act. While all autoimmune diseases and symptoms are different, this is a substantial list of reasonable accommodations to help get you started. It is by no means a complete list, but I’ve compiled the top 24 accommodations that are specific to help those with autoimmune diseases:
- Work from home.
- Allow for a flexible work and leave schedule.
- Allow periodic and/or longer breaks.
- Reduce job stress.
- Reduce or eliminate physical exertion.
- Provide parking close to the worksite.
- Switch to an ergonomic chair.
- Keep work environment free from dust, smoke, odor and fumes.
- Implement a fragrance-free workplace policy and a smoke-free building policy.
- Avoid temperature extremes.
- Use a fan/air-conditioner or heater at the workstation.
- Redirect air conditioning and heating vents.
- Provide sensitivity training to coworkers.
- Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for support.
- Provide information on counseling and employee assistance programs.
- Restructure the job to include only essential functions.
- Control glare by adding a glare screen to the computer.
- Move the workstation closer to the restroom.
- Provide access to a refrigerator.
- Allow for the workstation to minimize distractions.
- Allow a self-paced workload.
- Provide an ergonomic workstation.
- Install low-wattage overhead lights.
- Avoid infectious agents and chemicals.
Holly Bertone, CNHP, PMP, is a best-selling author and health entrepreneur. She is the president and CEO of Pink Fortitude, LLC, and runs the health and wellness website pinkfortitude.com. Holly is a breast cancer and Hashimoto’s survivor, and she turned these two significant health challenges into a passion to help others. She inspires others with her quick wit, brutal honesty and simple ways to be healthy in real life. You can follow her on social media: @pinkfortitude