Employment Manager, National MS Society
We recently received a question about how to obtain accommodations when MS starts to get in the way of doing your job. What perfect timing! I was just about to write my first post on employment and MS …
First, you need to know whether or not the ADA applies to your situation. You can request reasonable accommodation under the ADA if:
- You work for an ADA-covered employer;
- You are “qualified” to do the job; AND
- You are a person with a disability as defined by the ADA.
ADA-covered employers include private employers with 15 or more employees, all state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions.
“Qualified” to do the job means that you have the “skills, experience, education, or other requirements” of the position, and you “can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.” (See Disability Law Handbook - Employment and the ADA)
Person with a disability, according to the ADA’s definition, now includes most people with MS, thanks to the passage of the ADA Amendments Act and updated Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations.
Accommodations can be things like new equipment or changes to existing equipment. Another example is a change to your work routines, such as hours worked. Read a few real-world examples of accommodations that have worked for people with MS.
Two important things to remember about accommodations:
- You must be able to perform the essential functions of your job. The ADA does not require employers to reduce essential job functions, but you can ask to change how you perform an essential job function. Usually employers decide which job functions are essential.
- Your employer does not have to provide you with your first choice in accommodations. The employer has to provide an accommodation that is reasonable and effective, if available—so be ready to discuss alternatives.
Be prepared! Before you request accommodations, make sure you can answer all of the following questions:
- How is MS affecting your job, potential job, or application process?
- Why are you requesting accommodations?
- What accommodations or changes to your work will be effective?
- What information will you need to provide to your employer (or potential employer)?
- When should you speak with your employer (or potential employer)?
- Who should you involve in the conversation?
- How should you follow-up on your request?
- What are your rights if things go wrong?
These resources can provide more help and information:
Employees' Practical Guide to Negotiating and Requesting Reasonable Accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
SOAR (Job Accommodation Network’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource)
Not sure if your employer is covered by the ADA? Contact your regional ADA Center and the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) to make sure. Both organizations are free and confidential resources. JAN has staff trained in exploring possible accommodations for your particular situation.
If your employer is not covered by the ADA, contact an MS Navigator® at 1-800-344-4867 for assistance in exploring other possible legislation that may protect you.
Got another question related to employment? Comment below and check back in the coming months as we continue to navigate the employment world!