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10 Things to Know About Talking to Your Employer About Migraine

There are serious pros and cons involved in the decision of whether to disclose your migraine disease to your employer, and a great deal is at stake. While you may be lucky enough to have a boss who will be glad to know how to help accommodate your needs so you can continue to do your job, you may be less fortunate and have an employer who will start looking for a reason to fire you as soon as he/she learns about your situation.

If you have made the difficult decision to disclose your illness to your employer, here are 10 things you should know.

1. Make a plan of how you will disclose in advance.

2. Consider preparing a basic script you can follow so you can practice what you want to say in advance.

3. Determine who you are supposed to disclose to within your organization or who you feel more comfortable disclosing to for the first time.

4. Try to time your disclosure to occur before serious problems begin with your work or performance on the job. Most employers will believe you are more sincere in wanting to do your best despite your migraine disease if your disclosure does not seem like a last-ditch effort to save your job.

5. Decide how specific you want or need to be in disclosing.

6. Bring information that explains migraine disease in basic terms. (see Teri’s article: 10 Things I Want to Share About Migraine)

7. Be prepared to explain how you will work around your migraine disease to meet the expected duties of your position. Include both technical skills and general work skills related to your position.

8. Be prepared to discuss the accommodations you will need in order to perform your job. Tell your employer exactly what adjustments you need, but be open minded to their suggestions.

9. Discuss what your employer should do in case of a migraine-related emergency. If you are prone to fainting, disorientation, etc., let them know who to call and what to do in advance.

10. Offer a list of resources for your employer to explore for more information about migraine disease. is a great place to direct people who want to learn more.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer:


  • 3dogmom
    7 years ago

    I just started a new job….and I must wear sunglasses indoors. The lights are huge triggers for me! I also have an assistance dog, that mostly helps me at home. She can alert me to an oncoming attack, as well as wake me while I’m sleeping, so I can take my medicine before I get too ill.
    My new manager told me that I can’t wear my sunglasses because it’s offensive to the customers? He said they can’t see my eyes well enough and it makes the customers think they can’t trust me.
    I purposely wear sunglasses that are light colored, so people can still see my eyes….I’m at a loss what to do. I explained that I have migraines and that I must wear them indoors. I also have asked my neurologist for a letter stating that I must be allowed to wear them.
    I’ve only worked there 2 weeks…I don’t wanna have to quit bc of this!

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    3dogmom – I too wear sunglasses indoors, but mine are especially dark and are also lightly mirrored. Yes, they can be off-putting, but when people understand that you are wearing them for a medical condition, their attitudes instantly seem to change. Hopefully the note from your neuro will change your manager’s opinion and attitude. I definitely suggest you get that to your manager asap, and try not to let the situation stress you out or get you down while your manager becomes educated. You might even look at it this way: by educating this person, you may change the lives of other Migraineurs down the way.

    Do you have a name tag? I am open about my problems, so I would request something there that says “Hi I’m Ellen, and I wear dark glasses because of a medical condition” or “Ask me why I’m wearing my sunglasses!”

    I am curious, would your new manager ask a blind employee to take off their glasses too? Would he make an amputee remove their arm because it might be perceived as a weapon by someone?

    Really, I think this is a situation where they simply need a little education. I’ll bet they also think Migraine is just a headache.

    Barring that, acomodations like glasses are much easier to make than changing light fixtures etc. and your employer does have some legal obligations.

    My experience: Control the things you can, educate whenever possible, and don’t stress about things over which you have no control. Keep a bright and shining smile on your face and a sunshiney attitude, answer any questions that come up about your glasses, and that will truly take you much farther than removing the glasses that are keeping you functional. 😀

  • DebbyJ56
    7 years ago

    When I was able to work, at first I only told my office manager. She was the motherly type and easy to get along with. I was able to us einterview rooms for short naps in the dark to try to recover during the day.
    Great article! I worked three years with chronic daily migraine headaches.

  • Brad Harris
    8 years ago

    Excellent post! Very good things that all migraine sufferers should know.

  • That M Word: A Migraine Blog
    8 years ago

    I wish I had seen this article when I was working at my previous law firm. I was unsure how to disclose my migraines to my employer, and the health problems started coming before I could disclose in the way I would have like to. Great article – thank you for sharing!

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