Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Patients may suffer symptoms as varied as severe joint pain, chronic fatigue, headaches, organ damage and skin rashes. Yet, sufferers may not experience symptoms all the time. Their challenges may come and go in a fluctuating manner. When symptoms become particularly problematic, this is known as flare activity.
Due to its fluctuating nature, many individuals wonder whether lupus qualifies as a disability that employers must accommodate. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. In some cases, lupus may meet these criteria, particularly when it severely impacts an individual’s ability to perform their job or other daily activities.
Sometimes yes, sometimes no
Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities under the ADA. Relevant accommodations may include modified work hours, changes in work-related duties or flexible scheduling to accommodate medical appointments or periods of illness.
Not all cases of lupus automatically qualify as a disability, as the severity of the disease can vary greatly among individuals, and what constitutes a substantial limitation in major life activities differs from one case to another.
In some cases, employers may need to adjust their policies or practices to accommodate employees with lupus. It’s essential for both employers and employees to engage in open communication and work together to determine what accommodations are reasonable and necessary. It may, for example, be appropriate to facilitate some accommodations during flare activity that may not be needed when a worker’s symptoms are being managed effectively.
If you have lupus and believe you require workplace accommodations, it’s crucial to discuss your situation with your employer. Providing medical documentation from a healthcare professional can help clarify the extent of your condition and whether accommodations are warranted in your specific case. If reasonable accommodation requests are denied, know that you can seek legal guidance concerning your options at any time.