Narcolepsy

WHAT IS NARCOLEPSY?

Narcolepsy is a neurological condition most characterized by excessive sleepiness. Narcoleptics likely experience disturbed nocturnal sleep, insomnia, and disorders of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It is a type of dyssomnia. Even if a narcoleptic has experienced an adequate night's sleep the night before, he or she might still be unable to stay awake during the day, and he or she is likely to fall asleep at inappropriate times and places.

Several treatments for narcolepsy are available, but these treatments treat the underlying symptoms. Treatments for the overarching disorder do not yet exist. Drowsiness, however, is often treated with medicated stimulants. Nevertheless, it is probably best that a narcoleptic take planned, frequent, and periodic naps, so as to alleviate the onset of sleep at inappropriate times and places.

WAYS IN WHICH YOU MIGHT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF NARCOLEPSY

  • 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
  • Your employer does not accommodate your need to take periodic naps

HOW THE LAW PROTECTS YOU IF YOU HAVE NARCOLEPSY

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 against discrimination based on disability. Narcolepsy is a disability, deserving of protection from discrimination, as long as the disease limits the individual's ability to work. Accordingly, an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's narcolepsy. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with narcolepsy 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, many doctors will recommend that a narcoleptic take periodic naps throughout the day, so as to alleviate the possibility of falling asleep at inappropriate times and places. Accordingly, an employer has an obligation to so accommodate the employee, unless doing so would place an undue burden on the employer or threaten the workplace safety of others.

Further Information