Our last two articles in the series will focus on managing lupus in work and personal life. Taking an open-minded and positive approach will benefit a patient’s career and personal endeavors.
When a patient is diagnosed with lupus, she or he may have many questions about how to handle the condition at work. How long will I be able to adequately work? What are options if there are certain job functions cannot be performed due to complications from lupus? Should I tell an employer or coworker about the lupus diagnosis? How these questions are answered depends largely on symptoms experienced and what type of work is being done.
Many people are able to work for several years with lupus. But, sometimes, a patient’s schedule or work environment may need to be adjusted with accommodations. For example, some may need to work different hours or take longer breaks. Others might need special tools to do their job. The key is to work with one’s employer to find accommodations that are acceptable for both sides.
If a person needs help doing a job, she or he would need to inform their employer about their disability and ask for an accommodation. Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are not required to provide accommodations until they have been told one is needed. A patient with lupus can ask for an accommodation in writing, through a personal meeting, or both.
Some types of accommodations may include:
- Longer breaks
- Flexible work hours
- Working from home
- Use of a service animal at work
- Special lighting around the workstation
- A workstation close to the restroom
- A facility and workstation that are accessible
- Special equipment to operate the computer or telephone
- A parking spot close to the workplace
- Memory aids, such as organizers or a schedule
- Minimizing distractions around the work area
- Special protective clothing or hats to block UV rays when working outside
When requesting an accommodation, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
Be specific. Think about the specific job functions that require help with and offer some ideas for accommodations. For instance, if someone has photosensitivity, special lighting may be requested. Or if a person becomes fatigued in the afternoon, she or he could suggest a shorter workday or a longer break after lunch. It is beneficial to include medical records or a note from a doctor to support the request.
Focus on the positive. Tell the employer how a particular accommodation will make one a more productive employee. Let the employer know how the company will benefit from making this accommodation.
Keep an open mind. Although it’s helpful to offer specific suggestions to an employer, it’s also important to keep an open mind to alternative ideas that can help one suffering from lupus.
There may be circumstances in which no agreement can be reached regarding accommodations or there may be hardships that the employer must have to go through to initiate changes on behalf of the patient. Even the patient may find that it’s too difficult to deal with job stress and the symptoms of lupus. In these cases, it may be time to look for another job or think about switching to part-time hours at the current job. Finding other work that fits better with the disability will provide more positive outcomes.