Epilepsy

WHAT IS EPILEPSY?

Epilepsy (sometimes called a seizure disorder) is a common neurological condition characterized by epileptic seizures which are recurrent. These seizures are symptoms of synchronous or abnormal excessive neuronal activity in the brain. Epilepsy is usually controlled, but not cured, with medication. Surgery may be considered in difficult cases.

Causes of epilepsy might include stroke, head injury, alcoholism, or a genetic predisposition. Certain triggers, however, are more likely to increase the likelihood of the onset of a seizure. These triggers include tiredness, illness, stress, and alcohol consumption.

WAYS IN WHICH YOU MIGHT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF EPILEPSY

  • Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments
  • Your employer does not accommodate your need to take a reasonable amount of time off of work
  • Your employer will not provide reasonable on-site accommodations for your disability

HOW THE LAW PROTECTS YOU IF YOU HAVE EPILEPSY

To state a cause of action for disability discrimination, an employee must be disabled, regarded as disabled, or have a record of being disabled. The employee must then show that:

  • his or her disability results in physical limitations
  • that he or she can still perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations)
  • and that the employer took some adverse action (such as not hiring, firing, or demoting the employee) on the basis of that disability

Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act protect an individual against disability discrimination. Epilepsy can render an individual disabled, deserving of protection from discrimination, assuming that the epileptic seizures limit the individual's ability to work. Accordingly, an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's epilepsy. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with epilepsy so as to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The law will protect an employee whose employer does not provide these necessary accommodations. For example, an employee may need to attend doctor's appointments so as to determine the appropriate amount of medication to control the epilepsy. An employer has an obligation to provide an employee with such accommodation, unless doing so would unduly burden the employer or endanger the lives of the employee or others.

Epilepsy is also a medical condition, within the definition of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, deserving of protection from discrimination. FEHA defines a medical condition as any health impairment related to, or associated with, a diagnosis of cancer, for which a person has been rehabilitated or cured, based on competent medical evidence; or any genetic characteristic.

An employer may not take an adverse action (such as firing, refusing to hire, or failing to accommodate an employee's needs) on the basis of an employee's medical condition. An employer has an obligation to accommodate the employee by allowed him or her to attend medical appointments, receive treatment, and provide reasonable on-site accommodations for the condition.

Further Information