WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?
Lyme disease is a common tick born disease. Lyme disease has now been reported in 49 of 50 states in the U.S. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection, most often acquired from the bite of an infected tick. The disease varies widely in its symptoms, which may include a rash and flu-like symptoms, followed by musculoskeletal, arthritic, neurologic, psychiatric and/or cardiac manifestations. Early detection and prompt antibiotic treatment often result in an excellent prognosis.
Late stage symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, muscle pain, hallucinations, nausea, sleep disruption, and joint pain. Individuals exhibiting these symptom, especially those individuals who have been exposed to ticks, should be closely monitored so as to instigate early antibiotic treatment.
WAYS IN WHICH YOU MIGHT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF LYME DISEASE
- 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 LYME DISEASE
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 Act protect an individual against disability discrimination. Lyme disease can render an individual disabled, 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 Lyme disease. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with Lyme disease 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, if an individual needs to leave work to receive treatment for the disease, the employer should accommodate the employee accordingly, unless doing so would unduly burden the employer.
Lyme disease 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.
- For Legal Help see Finding an Attorney and David H. Greenberg, California Employment Law Attorney.