Is Epilepsy Covered Under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Discrimination is an illegal act in the workplace, prohibited federally under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA protects qualified individuals with disabilities, defined as those who have impairments, have a record of an impairment, or is regarded as having a disability. Individuals with epilepsy, the chronic neurological condition, is one disability that is covered under the ADA, as it is an impairment that limits the ability to work.

There are almost 200,000 new cases of seizure disorders and epilepsy every year. Presently, there are about 3 million people in the country with some form of epilepsy, and studies show that one in 10 adults will have a seizure at one point in their lifetime. Those who have been diagnosed with epilepsy have suffered at least two seizures; the types of seizures and severity of epilepsy varies from person to person.   

An employer must make reasonable accommodations for any qualified employee unless doing so would cause an undue hardship on the employer. This depends on different factors, such as:

  • Size of the employer.
  • How many and what types of facilities.
  • Size of budget.
  • How many employees.
  • Nature and cost of accommodation.

Because epilepsy symptoms are different from person to person, accommodations must be varied as well and suit the individual to their unique limitations and needs. For example, one person may need flexible hours for a certain amount of time because they may need short breaks should a seizure occur, or a person with memory problems may need directions written to them instead of given orally.

When an accommodation is requested, the employer will likely need supporting medical documentation from the employee’s physician. The employee’s job description helps the physician in producing the accommodation, and the medical data must support the accommodation. The request agreed upon only needs to be effective and does not necessarily need to be the specific accommodation requested.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination

New Jersey employees and job applicants are also protected from disability discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) as long as they meet certain requirements. The definition of disability under the NJLAD is broader than the ADA’s definition. NJLAD’s definition of disability for employees and job applicants include:

  • Physical illness or disease.
  • Physician disability, malformation, or disfigurement.
  • Epilepsy, paralysis, amputation, speech impediments, AIDS, HIV infection, blood traits, and visual or hearing impairments. 
  • Mental, psychological, developmental, and other non-physical impairments that can be shown through clinical or diagnostic tests or prevents the normal use of any bodily or mental functions.

The ADA only applies to employers with at least 15 or more employees, however, the NJLAD applies to employers with at least one employee. Like the ADA, the NJLAD requires the employee to still meet job qualifications and be able to perform essential job tasks. You are also afforded some rights under the NJLAD, including:

  • You have the right to reasonable accommodations, such as modifying work schedules or reassignment to another position.
  • A person with a disability cannot be excluded from applying for a job or be denied a promotion or employee benefits because of their disability. 
  • A person with a disability cannot be terminated because of their disability where they can perform the job’s essential tasks, even without accommodations. 

You can file a NJLAD claim through the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights or in state court within 180 days of the violation through an administrative claim or within two years through a state court claim. You may also choose to dual file administrative claims under both the NJLAD and ADA simultaneously. However, speaking with an attorney will help you with the process of filing a discrimination claim. 

South Jersey Employment Lawyer at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Helps Employees Facing Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

If you believe you are being discriminated against at work due to your disability, a South Jersey employment lawyer at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC can help. Call us today at 856-235-7075 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. With offices located in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.