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Why isn’t migraine a legitimate reason to miss work?

Why isn’t migraine a legitimate reason to miss work?

I’d love to ask this question of every employer I can find. Too many of us have been treated as though we are lying about, faking, or exaggerating our symptoms in order to avoid work or other obligations. Unless you experience the stroke-like symptoms of hemiplegic migraine, no one else can actually confirm that your symptoms are real. I’ve even heard of health care providers who accuse hemiplegic migraineurs of faking it!

What is up with this complete lack of empathy for the 8th leading cause of disability in the world? What did we ever do to deserve this kind of treatment? Part of the problem is the societal view of migraine as “just a headache”. No one thinks of head pain as a serious problem unless there is proof of a tumor, stroke, aneurysm, or concussion. In the absence of these, the typical response is, “Oh, you’re just fine.”

You and I both know that we are anything but fine. Lights and sound set off searing pain, compounding the incessant throb pounding inside your head. Waves of nausea threaten to erupt into vomiting at any moment. Your head feels too heavy to lift and the slightest movement produces sharp stabs. The urge to hide in the dark wrapped in ice packs is irresistible. The thought of trying to work in this situation is untenable. Driving is out of the question. No job in the world is possible during an acute attack.


We need to educate employers about the severity of migraine attacks, teach them how simple it is to make accommodations, and help them to understand that “taking a pill” simply does not return an employee to full capability within minutes. Even in the best circumstances when triptans do work, it can take several hours before a migraine patient is capable of productive work.

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.


  • pkpeterson
    1 year ago

    Thank you for the sample letter – it describes my life to a tee. I am wondering if anyone has suggestions on what to do if you cannot get a job, which in turn prohibits you from having any insurance or a current Dr to even begin to think about applying for disability? I cannot hold a job any longer when I do find one as my migraines are getting worse and more frequent. I am on the edge of becoming homeless and the stress of it all is certainly not helping and having read the comments below, I see that I am not alone with this. I wish better for us all.

  • litoria76
    1 year ago

    I was on FMLA and then STD for my chronic daily migraine. I applied for long term disability and when that was denied my former employer fired me. I have applied twice, and appealed once for SSDI. Now I’m waiting the 18 – 22 months for a hearing! Luckily my mom is still alive and has taken me in, otherwise I’d either be homeless or dead. I can’t think of any job I could do with 25 – 30 severe migraine per month…

  • shelleysqrd
    2 years ago

    I hear you. I’m on STD for my chronic migraines and though I have the most understanding boss in the world I would often hear “again” or “did you take your medicine”. Even at home I get it from my mother in law. “I didn’t know you could get disability that way”. What way I asked? Her response “headaches” – this after months of snide remarks. No amount of explaining helps. I keep my reason for my STD to myself, and too afraid of the stigma. Now less than a month until I have to obtain LTD and no closer to a solution than when I started this journey with the exception of Ketamine infusion therapy. Underwent that once over a 3 day period and had 8 glorious days of a normal life. Now the same facility refuses a repeat because it is an off – label treatment

  • mygrainetoo
    3 years ago

    Apparently you can get a week off if you’re a migraine sufferer and the head coach of the Denver Broncos:

  • mygrainetoo
    3 years ago

    Coach Kubiak is still hospitalized as of this posting. If he can’t make it to work this week, other migraine sufferers should lighten up on themselves when they can’t make it to work either!

  • SilverPhoenix13
    3 years ago

    I was recently approved for intermittent FMLA at work, which was a huge relief. I am allowed 2 to 4 days a week as needed for a migraine up to 12 weeks. Since I was approved just over a month ago, I’ve used 5 days.

    Despite the approval, though, I worry that my boss will eventually get sick of it and try to find another excuse to fire me. My only consulation is that I have never been written up or disciplined for ANYTHING. The only complaints I’ve had from my boss are in regards to my attendance due to my migraines, unless they’re writing stuff in my employee file that I have not been informed of. So, if they DO fire me, I would hope that’s enough to build a case against them for wrongful termination and to get unemployment.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi, SilverPhoenix13. We’re glad to hear that you have been approved for FMLA, and understand your worries. We do have a couple of excellent articles, written by Attorney Diana Lee. Expert Answer: Migraines and Unexcused Absences From Work discusses your rights under FMLA. She links to the second pertinent article within this article. I hope this helps to ease your mind.

    Thanks for reaching out and we’re always here to help. -All Best, Donna ( team)

  • Marina
    3 years ago

    It truly pained me to read these comments. I have come to realize that unless one has suffered from an actual migraine headache, no one can ever, ever understand what it means to experience the pain, the nausea and loss of one’s life. I have often said, without any ill-intent in mind, that everyone should experience a migraine just once in their lives so that they will have an inkling of what a migraineur’s life is all about. When my best friend got a migraine once, she exclaimed to me that she did not know how I could deal with such pain and loss of my life on such a frequent basis.

    Luckily, I have a relatively decent boss who does not punish me for missing work, but he has laid it down that “I need to do something about my headaches.” I do understand that I could not continually keep missing without him getting upset because it was causing problems for work to be done. I noticed that some of the commenters took a family leave, but that does not stop the migraines from coming. I have had to drastically look at what triggers my headaches and I have basically given up eating. I eat very little food and restrict my diet to such extremes so that I will not get a migraine. Food is the enemy in my life. I can do nothing about the weather, but I can control what goes into my mouth. But then just this past Sunday, out of the blue, since I had not eaten anything with sugar within the timeframe, I got a migraine with aura and could not see correctly without the aura flickering all around the perimeter of my vision. It was painless, yet it was visually disruptive and I had to lay down to close my eyes until it was over. Those type of migraines last around twenty minutes for me.

    At work, I have no fluorescent lights above my desk and work in a darkened area. My co-worker’s know my predicament. I wear dark glasses when I am suffering a migraine attack until I can get out of work. Sometimes, I have to work with such horrible nausea that I just sit silent and try to concentrate on what I have to do, but that can be a excruciating experience until I can go home to lay down with ice on my head or take a shot if the pain is too pounding. The longest ride home is the one with the migraine headache and you are aching to get out of the city and lights and practically stumble to the train and then bus. No walking home that night. Darkness and silence is your friend.

    I have improved with my headaches so that I do not have to miss much work, but it is a constant battle to try and avoid one. Unfortunately, they are chronic so my boss knows I will always have them. Education is key to helping the unaffected to be more understanding and respectful of the migraine sufferer. We can not help it and we are not just “having a headache.”

    Years ago, when I was first working, I missed a day of work due to a horrible migraine and when my boss saw me he chastised me for missing work because of it. I can remember what he said to me to this very day, “Migraine, you had a migraine and you missed worked? I get headaches all the time and I don’t miss work.” Obviously, this inconsiderate idiot never had a migraine in his life!! Because of that experience, for years, I never told anyone I had a migraine when one caused me to miss work. Thankfully, I believe some, I said some, of the public is getting educated about the disabling effects one suffers if they have migraines, but there are many ignorant, inconsiderate bosses out there that will never understand what happens when one is suffering an attack. Only when they have a migraine will they understand.

  • Sharon Beckwith-Johnson
    3 years ago

    Hope everyone is having a somewhat pain free day. I have a question, has anyone tried inversion therapy to release pressure off the back and neck? Or tried swim therapy? I see the neurologist on Monday and also the sleep Dr as well.

  • TMLloyd
    3 years ago

    Kaky, I wish you all the luck in finding that attorney, you definitely need it from your story. I too have hemiplegic migraines and they have gotten increasingly worse over the last five to six years, especially so in the last four.
    I’ve worked for my employer for 10 years and it’s been “hell on wheels” with them. They are a small company, employing only 30, down from 40 when I first started. I am the Office Manager, so I do all the accounting and payroll/human resources for the company. My attendance has been a huge issue, due to the severity of my migraines and other illnesses (plus being a single mom, kid things). I even have an employee complain that it’s not fair all the time I take off (ummm excuse me but I don’t get paid so what does it matter). I’ve also had dr’s notes for most of the time I’ve taken, if it’s just a day or two I don’t go because I can’t afford it. I’ve been put off for as long as two weeks and any time it’s more than a day my boss will say, “how does the dr know you’ll still be sick”. Seriously!!!! I only had one dr who wanted to put me on disability but I refused, thinking of the company and the timing being bad for them. I too have worked when I was on leave from home, but only when it was due to surgery.
    My boss says he understands as his daughter gets migraines, but I’m sorry it’s not the same. Firstly, she has NEVER worked so how can he understand what it’s like to have someone struggle with being off and not getting paid (plus I was a single parent of three, well four since I took care of my grandson, and had ONLY my income). Secondly, she doesn’t have the same type of migraines, which I recently learned there are many. I’m seriously considering going on disability because of the severity of my migraines. Plus since I started here, the amount of “stroke” episodes has increased 100 times since my very first one in 2001. I use my strength of “mind over matter” to keep my migraine “stroke” episodes down (meaning instead of having my whole left side going completely numb and unusable, I just have the tingling and slight numbness), but for the times that I can’t I’ve had to spend time in bed. My boss doesn’t see this, only that I’m once again out. He has even made comments that he thinks I drink too much and that’s why I am out so much, especially when I miss Monday’s.
    I can’t quit as I know he will sabotage any future employment, when they call to get verification of employment, by telling them of my poor attendance. He hasn’t fired me, yet, but since he knows I’m stuck he makes my “life” so unbearable. Which I know that this increase in stress has caused my migraines to increase in occurrence and now severity. It’s a lose-lose situation for me and I have had episodes of extreme depression to top it off. “Fun-fun in the sun”.

  • Pam<3Tide
    3 years ago

    I was off work sometimes 3-5 days at a time when I had migraines. I had FMLA for them I found out it didn’t matter. Because I couldn’t keep up with my work as a secretary. I would forget to print invoices. I always thought I did or looked and didn’t see them. I made sure to tell my boss what would happens or send articles from I even sent the same info to the HR dept. It didn’t matter they terminated me. Now I’m trying to get on disability. Last month I spent most of it in my dungeon (as I lovingly call my bedroom. The only reason I get out of bed is my cat. He has to be fed & get his meds twice.
    Who wants to hire someone who misses 15- 20 days a month & doesn’t have a way to speak the rest of the time. My savings and cash will be gone in July. That means no car insurance so, I can’t drive. Will have to go without meds, house payments you name or anything else, it I can’t pay for it. Doing all I can, but it’s hard. Dear Lord, take my hand, lead me on… I can’t do it without You

  • TMLloyd
    3 years ago

    Pam, I feel your pain. I just got back to work after being out yesterday. I was out for most of last week due to my migraines and I was out for a day and a half the week before that. I just found out that one could possibly get disability, in my situation that would be a plus. I have used almost all my savings supplementing my income for missed days. It is so hard to deal with them and not get depressed. My boss hasn’t fired me, yet, but he makes my “life” very stressful with his little comments and incessant jabs at my expense he calls humor. He says he understands as his daughter suffers from migraines, yet she has never worked a day in her life. Plus her migraines are way different then mine, as I can be out for two weeks from the things that my body goes through during an attack. I wish you all the luck at getting your disability. Social Security recognizes it as a valid disability so you just need to find a doctor educated enough to sign you up for it. God is always there and will remain by your side, even though it seems not. My favorite poem is “Footprints” and I think about that poem every time I feel discouraged.

  • harryhill8240
    3 years ago

    This is a very serious condition and it is hard to convince someone that you are not in working condition because of migraines as people still take it as a little headache. But one study says that it can also cause heart-related problems in women read:

  • TMLloyd
    3 years ago

    Plus depending on your type of migraine it can also cause memory loss, stroke, and other brain related lapses. I was so shocked when I found this out. I was one of the ignorant people out there thinking that migraines were just a really, really bad headache. Yet I knew that it had to be more since I have other things going on during an attack. Now I know and it scares the beejeebees out of me.

  • deadbrainwalking
    3 years ago

    Let me begin by saying that I’m no stranger to employer and coworker discrimination and losing jobs or having no choice but to resign due to chronic illness, and unfortunately by the time I figured out how to work the system I was too disabled to continue working. However, I do have some tips that may assist some of you in your struggles.

    In the states, per the Americans with Disabilities Act, you do NOT have to disclose your disability any time during the hiring process, nor at any time during your employment, and the moment you disclose you’re covered by the ADA. This letter would be the perfect way to disclose your disability and discuss the reasonable accommodations that you’re afforded by the law.
    When beginning any new employment, no matter how accommodating your employer seems, keep a log book of all verbal discussions with your management regarding your illness, and if at all possible keep discussions of your illness in writing, preferably by email as all messages are dated and verify receipt by the recipient. However, even text messages can be useful, so don’t delete them! There are apps that allow you to download texts to a document and do include a timestamp, but unfortunately they can be edited easily so they aren’t as secure as email, but they’re better than nothing.
    But supervisors loove to drop by your workstation or call you into their office to have a little informal chat about your “performance issues”, so it’s important to keep the log book. If you’re being harrassed by coworkers, log this as well and of course keep any correspondence that you’ve had with the management regarding their harassment.
    As far as communications with the management go, cite ADA law and specific passages, and cite any specific laws of your state (or country) that pertain to your illness and your accommodation. Wording is super important because it not only shows your supervisors that you know your rights, but it will show the courts that they were aware that you were asking for a legal right and not just special treatment.
    If your supervisor continues to harass you and/or does not make efforts to accommodate your illness, work your way up the chain, especially if it’s a situation where you have a lower level “team leader” type of supervisor and they have a supervisor who maybe has a site administrator who also has an area manager, etc etc. Your lower level supervisor may be woefully unaware of state and nat’l laws that protect you, so work your way up the chain until you get results, and definitely notify your company’s HR dept if they have one, as soon as you start having difficulty with supervisors, or as soon as you feel comfortable that it’s necessary. And obviously, track all communications that you have with any of these people, and especially if you contact HR, try to do so in writing.
    As far as written communications go, if you have to contact higher level supervisors or HR over the phone or in person, ask them to send you a written recap of the conversation, or get their contact information and send one yourself. It doesn’t have to be confrontational in any way, explain that you’d prefer written information to keep with your medical records, or if you’re writing a recap you say that you’re double checking with them which aspects are your responsibility and their responsibility. And still, write these conversations in your log book.
    If you’re salary and don’t get OT or if you’re working from home on your own time to catch up, keep track of your hours! Write them in your log book, and specify what you were working on and why, (ex. [Time], [Date], [Hours worked], [Location], Fiscal year report due to absence M, T, W this week). Also track your progress at work, whether you met deadlines, met or exceeded expectations or work requirements, if you didn’t meet a deadline for a specific reason (hospitalization, out sick that day, were not given an accommodation to assist you, etc), and keep a copy of all evaluations, chances are they state that performance was good but excessive absences were a barrier or something to that effect. Keep those! Also write in your log book what was said to you at your evaluation.
    And obviously, make copies of all your doctors’ notes and letters. If you wish for your employer to be aware of your diagnosis, (some states allow you to keep your diagnosis confidential), make sure that your doctor specifies the reason for your absences, otherwise they may only write “due to illness” in their letter. If your doctor says they plan to fax a letter to your employer follow up with the Dr’s office to be sure it was sent and ask for a copy. You should also write in your logbook if a Dr tells you that you need to take leave and that they plan to notify your workplace via fax or phone.

    The purpose for this should be clear. You’re making a clear record of your attempts to inform your workplace of your illness, of their reluctance or refusal to provide accommodations and/or their continued harsh treatment regarding these accommodations, and their reluctance or refusal to curb abuse by your coworkers. Any and all of this documentation can be used in the event that you have to go to court, if you need to discuss these issues with HR or anyone higher up on the food chain than your supervisor, and you can even use it if you’ve finally become too ill to work and need to file for social security, as you’re tracking your time off work and eventual inability to meet workplace requirements even with accommodations. I won 2 court cases using these steps, one to receive unemployment following a firing due to illness, and one to receive pay when I was made to continue work off the clock while on medical leave then fired anyway, so was paid for my work, for the remainder of my sick pay for medical leave, as compensation for being wrongfully fired, and was even given the option to return to work at the second job. I also forced a company to remove fluorescent lighting above my workspace and to accommodate my absences in accordance with the law after a very long battle of frequent denials, and have had companies immediately cease harrassment after I made a formal notification to HR of my disability, protection under the ADA and attempts to be accommodated, and I was able to have a Protection Improvement Notice removed from my formal record when I presented my log book, emails, Dr’s notes and other documentation to my supervisor’s supervisor. Both of the court cases were in Right to Work states and my documentation was instrumental in winning them as I’d established a pattern of employer refusal to accommodate disability and was able to prove my many attempts to notify of my illness and accommodation requirements, so when I was fired because “it’s just not a good fit”, it was clear that it wasn’t a good fit because they didn’t like it that I was sick.

    Do not be shy about asserting your rights with your employers. This is your livelihood, it’s how you support yourself and your families, and they obviously don’t care that they’re trying to force you to quit or firing from your job regardless of the fact that you’re working hard even while being ill, and certainly have increased costs due to your illness besides. Don’t let them shame or intimidate you into not asserting yourself. These laws are in place for a reason and they can protect you, but if a company is brazen enough to treat you poorly regardless of your protections, you need to be able to prove that it was your illness that drove them to do so.

    The letter attached to this article is a fantastic way to formally notify your employer of your illness. Be sure to keep a copy of it with your records.

    I hope this helps. It’s difficult living with invisible illness. Workplaces, coworkers, even friends and family members, have a difficult time understanding how bad we feel when we “don’t look sick” or are “too young” to live with debilitating and chronic illness. Education is important, and if you don’t make efforts to assert yourself things will never change.

  • Msmmain
    3 years ago

    This comes at the most perfect timing for me. I was let go from my job this afternoon because of “animosity from other employees” about how often I miss time (a few hours or a full day depending on the attack every 2-3 weeks). Yes former coworkers- I know that is a lot of time missed. But didn’t you notice I was still working 60-70 hour work weeks and getring all my work finished? you profiled that I must be hung-over or high all the time because I’m young (they required a drug/alcohol panel a while back, even with the letter from my Drs offices). Congratulations, you just fired someone based on discrimination.

    To the author- if I use your letter, how do I not loose a new job before it even starts?

  • Julianne
    3 years ago

    In 2009 I took the first 6 months off to travel to Chicago to get serious treatment for my headaches which included a two week inpatient stay at the Diamond Headache Clinic and the implantation of a nerve stimulator. I heard from friends at work that my department coworkers (there are only 3 of us in the department) had received monetary award for covering my job and doing extra work when I was gone. I returned to find that not only had they done NONE of my work, but they had also used my absence as an excuse to not get THEIR OWN work done. It was maddening. I worked my tail off and got nearly an entire year’s work done in 6 months so that they wouldn’t be able to use me as an excuse anymore. I was at work for 6 months this year and yet I still had the greatest output at the end of the fiscal year.

    The point of my story, I suppose, is that coworkers are rarely supportive and can even use your migraines to personally benefit. I have no idea how to combat that. Luckily 6 months later we got a new boss…a guy I’d worked with in my previous office for 5 years who therefore knew my history and also was a migraine sufferer, although he only gets a handful a year.

  • blondie72
    3 years ago

    Thank you for writing this article. I have chronic migraine and have had issues since I was 13 years old and seems to be getting worse the older I get. The biggest mistake I made at work was being open and honest about my migraines with my supervisors/managers when I didn’t have to tell them any information. I have had a manager change my work hours because they thought it would be better for my migraines. I’ve also had managers make negative comments in front of my supervisors about my migraine issue and comparing them to that of a manager at my work who also has migraines…well if she can be at work with a migraine then why can’t she? I work for a company that provides long term disability and short term disability to customers but if you are an employee there you are treated horribly. It’s hard to continue working in an environment like this as it creates more stress, worry and depression. Any migraine sufferer knows what it’s like to feel like you have no control over your life. Employers need to be more educated about migraine and how migraines are different for every migraine sufferer.

  • TMLloyd
    3 years ago

    Yes they do. My boss thinks he knows so much about migraines because his daughter suffers from them. News flash, my migraines are completely, and I mean completely, different than hers. He is constantly telling me “she had them so bad that she ended up in the ER needing to get shots”, trying to imply that since I haven’t gone to the ER that I must not have them very bad. Well another news flash, I have hemiplegic migraines and have spent days in the hospital with them trying to find out why I have stroke symptoms but no actual stroke per an MRI and other test. I stopped going since being a single parent I had no one to watch my kids, went to the hospital while I was still with my ex. I haven’t taken care of myself very well over the years due to being all by myself with no support and being the only income earner. I can honestly say I’m glad he hasn’t fired me. He has said that they only thing that has saved me from that is that when I’m hear I get the work done and quickly.

  • Coley
    3 years ago

    I got let go from my kast job because I was honest with my last supervisor. She gets migraines too and thought I was faking it and found an excuse outside of my fmla. She would try to interpret that differently and write me up. It was the worse nightmare I ever went through in a 6 month period. When I went to my manager about it she just listened to me and didn’t do a thing to help me. I know they didn’t care. I think she was jealous I was gone more than her. So they fired me against something they couldn’t prove. I was pissed.

    Luckily now, I know my main trigger was a food allergy and I work somewhere that’s way more accommodating to me. I feel so bad for everyone that’s struggled with employers for chronic migraines. Being sick over 20 days out of the month for me was a nightmare. Now I’m down to 4 to 5 a month and it’s better. I pray that people who have suffered from this awful illness find solutions that work for them.

  • shoegirl4444
    3 years ago

    Thanks for the sample letter and story. I am another person who was let go from my job for “other reasons”, even while I was out on intermittent short term disability. I’ve had migraines for 30 years, and I’m pretty lucky to be able get by with the whopping 9 triptan pills allowed to me each month by my insurance. However, last year I started experiencing around 20 migraine days/month. After a 3 month diagnosis, it turned out I had mono! At 40 years old! Weird. Which explained the increased number of migraines and my complete exhaustion. However, before I could fully recover from the mono, I was let go for “other reasons”. It was pretty upsetting and depressing. I’m currently looking for a new job and I’m very nervous about having to find something new, knowing up front that I have migraines and I will need time off work. I was very lucky to have had understanding employers most of my career, and I’ve now had such a bad experience that it has me terrified as to what will happen now. Will this be my life now? Employers willing to put up with the migraines for a little while, and then firing me for some other reason? I also feel bad interviewing and not telling them about the migraines up front, because I know I will never have a chance to be hired in the first place. It’s a tough situation to be in. I know that I can be a wonderful employee and get my job done accurately and timely. I have a proven track record. I just need a little flexibility on my hours, and that is really hard to find. Especially when I am trying to find a new job. I still deal with probably 10-15 migraines per month, but I am able to control them (most of the time), with medication and rest. Starting a new job is stressful anyway, and stress is one of my biggest triggers for migraines. I’m just really hoping to find an employer as wonderful & understanding as some of my past ones. It kind of seems like wishful thinking right now, but fingers crossed!

  • Operadiva76
    3 years ago

    As someone who has been fired from, resigned from, or demoted at multiple jobs over the years due to migraine, & went from working full-time to part-time, to being an independent contractor who works only a few days per month, this article is the story of my life! Chronic Migraine Syndrome began in childhood for me, after a tragic accident where I broke my neck. Since having my spine fused at age 8, I have had teachers, school officials, coaches, doctors, employers, coworkers, friends, & loved ones NOT understand or believe I was sick. Through advocacy & education, my family, close friends, & loved ones have started to see the light. And after decades of misdiagnosis, ER visits, & just plain bad treatment, I finally have a team of doctors who provide me with care, support, & excellent treatment. We just have to constantly fight against the medical insurance company to receive that treatment! My greatest wish is to get Migraine reclassified as whole body disorder/syndrome, & that one of the symptoms is described as: accompanied by deblitating headaches. If we could change how the medical world defines it, & insurance companies cover it, I think the rest of society might start to change their perception too!

  • Gigi
    3 years ago

    Excellent letter! I wish I’d had that when I was still working. Although, I was pretty lucky with MOST supervisors over the years being understanding & working with me. I never turned on the desk lights in my cubicle & often wore my sunglasses. One supervisor was even the one who suggested that I apply for the FMLA, which I was on for the last several years that I worked…until I kept getting worse & I finally had to go on disability and eventually early retirement.

    However, one time (the ONLY time!) I ever formally complained about a co-worker’s perfume (she was in the cubicle across from me and wore the really strong musky scent…think old Avon!) I was told that they couldn’t stop her from wearing it due to her rights but if it bothered me THAT much that I could wear a mask! Whaaaat?!? I even had a doctor’s note.

  • Sylvia Reed
    3 years ago

    Thank you for this article, Tammy. After working for years with bad headaches, bad lighting, people who would splash on more perfume if you complained, stress, the noise, i finally went to work for my husband where I could rest if I needed to. I later had my own business. Employers and other employees do not have a clue what is happening when you have migraines and how much of a challenge it is for you to work. The laws have changed for the better since I was in the work force. Hopefully a letter like yours would help – before the disabilities act, it would have gotten me fired. I am sharing your article with others who might be able to benefit from the info. (FYI, I have had migraines and cluster headaches for 65 years and they have been chronic most of that time. My wish is that some day there will be a cure.)

  • Chip&Dale
    3 years ago

    Living in an employee/terminate at will state it’s very easy for an employer to hide behind those “at will” terms because they do not have to provide a reason for employee termination. As long as they do not blatantly utter your disability as the reason for termination, they are safe from litigation and you are absolutely screwed.
    I had received disability accommodations through my last employer, but that didn’t stop the backlash that I received from my coworkers and directly from my immediate supervisors. The stress became unbearable and compounded with the existing environmental triggers which made the migraine cycles even more violent.
    I had been a productive worker my entire life. But the high stress job was killing me. The last 2 years that I worked I had been lucky to make it to 50% of my scheduled hours.
    I was released from my job on temp disability by Dr’s orders and then subsequently put on long-term disability (migraines and fibromyalgia). I’ve been unable to work at all for 4y 7m.
    I would love to work again. But who is going to hire a person who is so unreliable? Someone who can’t guarantee they will be there? Someone who can drop from a skull splitting migraine in a moments notice? Someone who feels lost and foggy for 24 hours after a particularly bad episode?
    I’ve had 4 migraines in the last 8 days. 3 of them were 3 days back to back. It’s extremely depressing and extremely isolating.

  • TMLloyd
    3 years ago

    Yeah, I wish someone could answer that one for me as well. I don’t want to work where I am because of the stress that my boss and co-workers create with their stupid comments. They are the worst when I’m out for more than a couple of days. No one has to do my job when I’m out so it’s not that. It’s the co-worker who feels my being out so much isn’t fair. SERIOUSLY!!!! But looking for another job, well I’m “gun shy” now because of these past 10 years with this job. I had migraines at other jobs but NOTHING like what I’ve gone through here. My other posts explain more so I won’t reiterate.

  • CindyLee
    3 years ago

    Employers of over 25 employees (I think) must comply with the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Prior to my retirement, I got an updated certification each calendar year from my physician stating that I could be out up to 3 days per month due to disability from migraine. This was accepted by employer each year until I retired. It was worth the reduction in stress just to have this.

  • TMLloyd
    3 years ago

    Yes, 50. And that is why my boss gives me so much grief. We only employ 30, so he doesn’t have to follow any of those guidelines. This has been for a very complicated 10 years of employment, and especially the last four years with the increase in migraines and other health related issues.

  • Chip&Dale
    3 years ago

    It’s 50… just like insurance

  • brandi0522
    3 years ago

    I love the letter you wrote! My employer has allowed me to be on Intermittent FMLA. The problem with this is that they do not allow ANY employee that is on FMLA to work a flexible schedule (come in 2 hours late and work 2 hours late to make it up). This has become an issue since I do not have very much leave time.

  • Iloveschnauzers
    3 years ago

    I have been lucky in that my migraines are only debilitating for 24-48 hours. And my employer is understanding of the issues migraine sufferers face. My coworkers may not all understand, but those who have had to drive me home and seen the suffering first hand are the first to come to my defense.

  • Tim Autry
    3 years ago

    From experience, it is easier for an employer to contrive an excuse to terminate one’s employment than to even attempt to understand, learn, help and accommodate, especially for something as small, simple and insignificant as a headache (their words, not mine). Those of us who suffer from or have loved ones who do suffer from migraine disease know otherwise. We all just want to live, contribute and participate in life as best we can like the rest of our co-workers, we just need a little help from our employer, similar to those employees who have other disabilities you already cater to.
    Please read and try to accommodate your employees who suffer from migraine.
    P.S. and the only lying we may do to you is one of “we feel great” or “we’re ok” when in reality we should be in a cool dark room with our medication and trying to rest. Most of us are ashamed of our Migraine disease and do our best to cover up how it affects us and to present a facade or normalcy to those around us. We do this even with our loved ones, so when we say we need to go home early or not able to work today, know it must be a severe attack and you would be better off to do without us for that period of time. After all, we are more prone to mistakes right before, during and right after the attack.
    Thank you, and please have a wonderful day, and be understanding and caring to all your employees with disabilities.

  • Nicole
    3 years ago

    I couldn’t have said it better myself! Especially because this has happened to me. I had FMLA in place, but my previous job found another reason to let me go. I am so lucky now that my current employer is fantastic and understands. I wish every single migraine sufferer luck. I really and truly would never wish this disease on my worst enemy.

  • Colleen Meegan
    3 years ago

    I agree with all that you have said, and only want to address(at this time)employers who “contrive an excuse…). Remember, most of us live in “Right to Work” states where employers need no reason whatsoever to get rid of us! The stress of being fired, losing one’s livelihood & one’s ego, and the next exhausting job search makes things even worse for us. Love to you all!

  • Chrissy
    3 years ago

    I have battled migraines for 27 years with increasing frequency and intensity. They are now diagnosed as chronic daily migraine and I am currently on FMLA leave. I wish I had this article in hand when I had to explain to my job that needed to take time off to try to get my migraine situation better under control. I heard “you should try seeing a doctor”. I’ve seen multiple docs in different specialties. I am currently being treated by Mayo Clinic. Did they really think I’d let it get to this point and not see a doctor?! Some employers are clueless about migraine.

  • Staceyranderson
    3 years ago

    I think part of the reason for a lack of understanding & empathy of missing work due to migraine is because so many people THINK they suffer from migraines, but have never been actually diagnosed as such.
    I have post-surgical chronic migraines. Anytime I begin to look distressed & ill, someone asks if I’m ok. When I respond that I feel a migraine coming on, about 95% of people retort with, “I know just how you feel! I have migraines too. Do you want an Excedrin Migraine? They’re life savers!” I kindly decline & thank the kind but clueless soul. I tell them I have a prescription medication which often starts a conversation I don’t feel well enough to handle. The fact people don’t know there are migraine prescriptions is a sure fire sign they don’t really know much about the condition. But I honestly think people overuse the term & it leads to poor reception for those that are truly suffering from this condition.

  • Newdancerco
    3 years ago

    Never mind those of us that don’t respond to migraine medication. I have chronic intractable migraine, which means even triptans, ergotamines, etc don’t work. So then you get the additional joy of explaining, every time you hear “my aunt uses X and it works, you should try it”, that you have, it doesn’t for you, but thank you for trying, while wishing your head would finish exploding/collapsing/whatever it is trying to do so you can stop hurting already. And when you try to get help, the medical field treats you like dirt because nothing legitimate works. I’ve had 2 surgeries to deal with this, it’s been 20+ years, I KNOW opiates aren’t first line or ideal for this but some days they are the only way I get enough distance from the pain to sleep. So the docs think I’m a druggie (my dose hasn’t increased in the time I’ve been forced to use them, thank you, and I continue to search for other, nonopiate ideas and suggest them often), and if I have a job opportunity and have to take a drug test I’m screwed because who’s going to hire someone with chronic migraine for a supervisor? Never mind disability- my doc thinks I’m fine, since I can function enough to do what I have to in order to survive.

    Sorry, rant over

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    And that leads to another issue…
    People don’t think of migraine as serious so they don’t talk to their doctor about it. They just assume they have migraine and pop a few Excedrin. Some people are lucky enough to have a milder form of migraine that responds to OTC meds. Unfortunately, few people understand that migraine isn’t always that easy to control.

    Thanks for your input!

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