Should You Be Honest with Your Employer about Migraines?

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The decision of whether to disclose your migraine diagnosis to a prospective or current employer comes down to weighing the pros and cons of each option. There are lots of good reasons to share this personal information, but there are also many reasons not to. There is a lot at stake in making this choice. It’s a very personal decision.

Considerations:

– Disclosing would explain why you’re missing work and your limitations on the job.

– Your employer won’t be caught off guard if you go through an especially rough patch and need someone to fill in for you while you take leave.

– You’ll need to disclose your illness to seek accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

– If you work in certain settings, such as the medical field, your employer needs to know about communicable disease to protect patients. Fortunately this is not a consideration for people living with migraines, but is something to be aware of if you live with other conditions.

– Talking openly about your needs might help improve your working environment and make doing your job less burdensome.

– If your employer offers health benefits they must keep your individually identifiable medical information private to comply with the requirements of HIPAA. There may also be similar state laws that apply to your situation.

– Less scrupulous employers may try to fire you because they know you’re sick and consider you a problem. Even though this kind of treatment is often illegal, it still happens.

– Telling your employer could damage your opportunities for advancement and involvement in prestigious projects.

– Your co-workers might feel you’re getting special treatment. Sadly, adults can be incredibly petty and self interested in the work place.

– Have any of your coworkers “come out” about health problems? How were they received?

– Does your employer have any rules or guidelines about how they treat people with health concerns?

If you decide to disclose your migraine disease to your employer you must then decide how much information to share. Some people are more comfortable being a bit vague and simply stating they have a type of condition (such as a neurological condition), while others are more comfortable saying exactly what they have (migraines).

Disclosing your health status can be a great opportunity to provide some basic education to your employer about the nature of your disease so your superiors can better understand what you’re dealing with. But doing so can be a huge risk.

Have any of you dealt with this? How did you handle it? Did you make the right decision?

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

Comments

View Comments (76)
  • sueb64
    2 weeks ago

    I made a decision to tell my daycare director about my migraines. I had worked there for many years, when she told me she did not want me to work with infants, because she was afraid I would drop them. I have never dropped any child! How devastating to be so misunderstood!

  • kierah
    11 months ago

    So…this is a bit scary hearing all these stories about workers with migraines and the employers almost disregard for the employee.
    I am a teacher and just started a teaching position 4 weeks ago. I have had migraines, but am able to properly subdue them as long as I take ibuprofen immediately. Today when I got to school, I felt a minor headache coming and went to the school nurse to ask for some ibuprofen. I told her I get migraines and that I have to nip it in the butt immediately when I feel even the inkling of a headache coming on. The school nurse said I didn’t look good….I said I would be fine. And I was. Until and hour and a half later when the school’s principal came to my classroom and pulled me out saying that the school nurse was concerned about my health.
    So, I went back to the nurses office and the principal and the asst. principal said they would not let me drive home….even after me repeatedly telling them I was okay. They were going to call an ambulance to take me to the E.R., which I said was not needed.
    They still would not let me drive and the school nurse said that I was slurring my speech and mumbling (I always mumble…its a constant pet peeve with my dad and boyfriend and mom)…and they said I was staggering my steps and thought I may be having a stroke. I had to laugh at this. Eventually, they decided that they had to bring me to an Urgent Care office. So, I get in the car with the principal and a guidance officer and they bring me a to a ‘walk-in clinic. Now…the clinic would not take me because my PCP was not located there. SO, now we all go back to the school…they were still considering calling EMS, but now thought it not warranted, but said that they would not let me drive…mind you….I NEVER EVEN GOT THE MIGRAINE…ALL i did was tell them that I get them….if I dont take medicine to prevent it. And now…they tell me they are calling the police so they can give me a ride home. (I do not even live in the same town I teach in.) The cops bring me home, I went to the urgent care facility that I have been to before and got a health clearance form and a driving clearance form. I then had to pay $35.00 to get an UBER back to my car and the school. I went into the school with the doctors letter and went home.
    When I got home, I saw that I had been taken off the teaching list, I immediately called the supervisor and they said that they had to take me off the list because they had serious concerns regarding my health and the safety of the students.
    I am sure I will be getting fired tomorrow, as they requested a meeting with myself and all the higher-ups.

    This is just insane and borders on what I define to be legal.

    Any help on what I should do when they fire me because I had a minor headache that I didn’t want turning into a migraine would be quite helpful.
    ….legal advice….
    ……anything….

    thank you all,….and I hope you can help me!

  • Kim Leonoudakis
    4 years ago

    Thanks Diana for writing about this. My husband is an employer and never understood when an employee had to leave because of a migraine. Then a few years after we got married I starting getting daily migraines and quit my job doing taxes. That was 20 years ago. Now my husband is very understanding to employees. And very supportive of me!
    Us migraine sufferers have a invisible illness so people think we are fine unless we tell them otherwise. Now that I’m able to manage them because I have a near-stimulator, I’m trying to give back and help raise awareness about migraines.

  • grammayumyum
    4 years ago

    All of your comments worry me. Does anyone have a positive experience? I have been on disability for about 15 years. As my last child leaves home (severely physically disabled), I really want to try to go back to work. I have 20 diagnoses now; when I was first put on disability, I had 4. Are most employers so inhumane? Do I disclose needs for accommodations (NO fluorescent lights, not even for 5 minutes!) before/after hiring?

  • Melissa
    4 years ago

    I’ve been employed with a Fortune 500 company for almost 16 years. My migraines became chronic about 8 years ago and some days are worse than others. This past year or two has been particularly bad, I think in part because my new direct supervisor has shown some particular dislike for me specifically, which is adding stress to my life, which is increasing my migraines. There are days that I wake up and need to take medicine before I am physically able to get up and get ready for work or drive to get to work, which has caused me to be late. I’m salaried, so I always make up the hours on the back end of my shift. In fact, I rarely work less than 50 hours a week. My boss has written me up and I’m close to being fired. I’ve had to start an accommodation request, basically just asking for leeway for days that I’m late because of a medical condition. It’s really causing so much stress on my life. My job has always been the one place I could go and feel like I was still “normal” most of the time, and now I’m being treated like I’m lazy and trying to get away with something. He calls me constantly and asks me ridiculous questions and treats me generally awful. I wish I could just stop working and stay home. 🙁

  • chebbot
    4 years ago

    I work in a small place and my boss knows my condition and history. I work part time so she’s good about scheduling around my appointments. But sometimes it amazes me how little she cares.

    I had a migraine for a week and was at the point where the hospital was my last option. I got very ill at work, I was vomiting up my medication, my aura didn’t allow me to see, and I work at a daycare so I was completely dysfunctional. A lot of triggers there. I told her I needed to go to the hospital and she asked me if I could come back afterwards! I told her I would be doped up from the meds, and she asked me, rudely, how am I going to drive like that then? My boyfriend was bringing me, I couldn’t believe that she interrogated me like that.

    I was just flabbergasted. Other people leave early all the time for the sniffles. I often throw up in the staff bathroom in her office, and she tells me to warn her so she can put music on because the sound makes her sick.

    I really should find another job.

  • Leah
    5 years ago

    Laying on the floor of my office, while listening to binaural beats with the hopes to be able to drive home….vanity gone as my associates checked up on me…..

  • Diana-Lee author
    5 years ago

    Oh, man, this was SO my life when I was still trying to work. So many naps on the floor of my office trying to get it together enough to get some work done, get to meetings and be able to drive home at the end of the day. 🙁

  • Amylove
    5 years ago

    I’m a therapist, and while my supervisor understands how migraine can effect me, I have not disclosed this to my clients. I’ve conducted many a session with a pounding head and nausea, trying to focus while being distracted by pain. I’ve often slipped a relpax during a session. My migraines, while occurring 9-12 times a month, rarely are preceded by aura. Last week, however, was a different story. I was 15 minutes into a session when I began to realize that when I looked directly at my client, I couldn’t see her face. I was able to see the floor, her shirt, my hand, but a bright white light replaced her face. A panicky anxious feeling began, a familiar feeling I have each time I experience an aura. Soon, all I saw was glimpses of my client along with a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. I had never experienced this mid session. I couldn’t just up and leave. I tried to focus. I tried to give appropriate and empathic responses. I hoped I would be able to fake it for the next 30 minutes! I finally left and sat in my car waiting for it to end. The pain that followed lasted for the next 6 hours. I know it’s not my fault but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that I wasn’t my best self and couldn’t give my client what she needed from me. I laughed about it afterwords but, actually, I felt pissed off and out of control. It’s hard because we cannot predict when we will be overtaken my a migraine and while working, there isn’t always a lot we can do!

  • Diana-Lee author
    5 years ago

    It’s undoubtedly frustrating and sometimes quite scary. I’ll never forget the day I lost vision in a meeting and had to have a coworker lead me to the restroom and call my husband to come get me. It could have been worse, but it was scary and embarrassing.

  • Angie
    5 years ago

    I have had migraines since I was a teenager. My Grandmother and Momma both had them also. The summer if 2010 I contracted a brain virus from a mosquito bite. I now have frontal lobe damage. I began have migraines that were so horrible I had to be carried into the doctors office by my husband. I lost the ability to speak or see. I now have 20 plus migraines per month. I work if I can. My husband and I own our own business So I am lucky in that respect. I go to the brake room, take meds, lay on a cot with the lights out and the door shut. If sick enough my personal assistant drives me to the doctor for what I call a knock out shot. I would not be able to hold a normal job. I have been told that in my state chronic migraine is not a disability and I cannot draw disability. My doctor has set up a sleep study because I usually wake up with a migraine. They believe I am not getting enough oxygen to my brain. I have tried so many medications it is unbelievable. I just started Lyrica yesterday and have migraine free for two days. I have high hopes. The days I don’t have a migraine I have a headache. I had 4 migraine or headache free days since summer of 2010. Since the Lyrica I have now had a total of 6 migraine free days. I am also going to try Botox if necessary and if that doesn’t work I have researched and found a team of doctors in Texas who will operate on my brain to try to block something they believe is the cause of most migraines. I am willing to try anything.

  • Diana-Lee author
    5 years ago

    I’d highly encourage you to review my articles here on Migraine.com about Social Security Disability for Migraine. Many people do receive benefits for Chronic Migraine, myself included. It’s not always an easy road, but it’s possible depending on your situation and whether you meet the requirements.

    Here are some links to get you started:

    https://migraine.com/blog/social-security-disability-insurance-benefits-the-basics/

    https://migraine.com/blog/common-myths-about-applying-for-social-security-disability-benefits/

    https://migraine.com/blog/10-things-you-should-know-about-chronic-migraines-and-applying-for-social-security-disability/

    http://migraine.com/blog/can-you-receive-disability-benefits-if-you-have-migraine-disease/

    Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can help further.

  • JeanyB
    5 years ago

    Good luck with the Botox. I’m not sure how it is regulated with you (I’m in the UK) but for your information you could have a look at our NICE (National Institute for Clinical Exellance)guidelines for Botox for migraine. These are the guidelines my NHS Dystonia nurse follows when she gives me the injections.
    Botox has helped me but I did go through an awful time at work. At one meeting I was advised I had to have no more sickness days off for the next year, I knew I would be dismissed if I did. Any way the organisation eventually closed down and along with all the staff I was paid redundancy. I was working from home and can’t see me getting another job like that!

  • knitchick
    5 years ago

    I had a migraine and my boss told he I couldn’t go home but he so kindly suggest that I lay on top of the granite table in the board room, the coolness of the granite might help ease the pain. He was such a a$$.

  • Diana-Lee author
    5 years ago

    To call him an a$$ is putting it rather politely! Ridiculous and insulting. 🙁

  • cindyd
    5 years ago

    I had FMLA on my job and did everything I was supposed to. My supervisor at the time suggested it. I worked for a medical foundation and so they had to recognize that it was for real but then I was told, after awhile, that there seemed to be a “pattern” to my days that I missed with my migraines. I told them, “Well, if you can see a pattern you are doing better than my internist because he can’t find one.” I was one of the top producers of work for my employer and they knew it so they didn’t make a big deal of it. My neurologist said my headaches were “multifactorial” which they certainly are. My triggers extend from a drop in the barometric pressure, menstrual and hormonal changes, stress, anger, and letdown migraines among others. My sister and I inherited this from my grandmother and two of my sisters who are just a few years older than me have also now developed seizure disorders in their 50s. After they approached me that time, they left me alone and my supervisors were very good about it but I guess they were just doing their job. I am a really good worker but this cannot be helped. If it were something on the outside that they could see like a broken arm or something, they would never say anything. I was laid off a few years ago with half of our department due to seniority and now my new employer is very understanding because my boss gets them too. He is only 36. They tell me to go ahead and go home if I have one. . . Makes me feel so much better. I am grateful to have such good employers, both at my prior job and this job, that understand. It is hard for me to hide my migraines and not let them know because my face looks different when I have a migraine and also my words sometimes either don’t come out right or in the wrong order which is embarrassing. I have a great husband and family who understand and so I have it pretty good as far as support at home and at work.

  • Diana-Lee author
    5 years ago

    I’m SO glad for you that you found a more supportive, understanding work environment. And great family support, too!

  • ocprgmr
    5 years ago

    Let me start out by saying that after reading many comments and posts here on migraine.com, I feel lucky. I’m in no way as bad off as many of you are.

    I worked for my prior employer for 1 month shy of 19 years. And like many others who have posted, I gave more than 100% when I was able to work. I didn’t start having migraines until 6 years ago. At the time, I didn’t know what was happening to me.

    I had an ultrasound, MRI, saw an ENT and then a blood test showed that I had diabetes and no one cared about the excruciating pain that was happening once or twice a month — just the diabetes. I struggled with the diabetes meds a bit and was having issues with blurred vision. I was driving close to 100 miles a day to get to work and having blurred vision on the way home was not safe. On bad days, I would talk to my supervisor and he would let me work from home (I was a programmer). After almost 2 years of this struggle and my migraines slowly increasing in frequency, my supervisor changed. He recognized that I needed to be put on intermittent FMLA and by then I was working from home full time. Within a year, he was promoted and then my life went to hell. It was soon after this that I found out that the headaches I was having were probably ocular migraines — I found this out from my mom’s ophthalmologist.

    I saw a neurologist and she put me on Topamax — big mistake. I didn’t realize (because it crept up on me) that my cognitive functions were being diminished. It was taking me longer to complete tasks (I would work ridiculous hours to keep up) and it was harder to make smart decisions. My supervisor was not very good at communicating and assumed that if I was having a problem it was my responsibility to let him know. I’m not sure how I was supposed to know that HE felt I was having problems, if he didn’t tell me. I got my first negative review (although the company cannot provide me with a copy that has any negative comments on it) and I do not remember it being negative — the supervisor did not go over the review with me at all.

    Fast forward through the next year and I knew I had had a difficult year. Just before the supervisor was to give me my review, he calls me up and tells me that “they” think I should start coming into the office to work and not work from home. I remind him that I was working from home because it was not safe for me to be driving. I told him that my neurologist said that being in any moving vehicle was one of my migraine triggers. I also told him that the fluorescent lights were also a trigger and asked if there was a place at the office where I could sit and could control the lighting. He said no to the lights and then told me that even though he wasn’t a doctor he thought that if I just tried driving (or having someone drive me) that perhaps it would be like exercising — it would hurt at first but then my body would get used to it. I was speechless.

    Shortly afterward, I received a negative review, I knew I that I had had a bad year but it didn’t seem as though the review that THAT bad. I didn’t dispute it on paper — big mistake. At that time I was so stressed that I missed a couple of days of my Topamax and realized just how foggy it was making me. I stopped taking it and started feeling more clearheaded and started improving on items mentioned in my review.

    One month later, I was put on a “performance improvement plan” and was told it was a GOOD thing. They were there to help me improve so I wouldn’t get another bad review. Well, 90 days later and a ton of overtime (not paid for cause I was salaried) trying to jump through the moving hoops of the plan, I was fired. During a number of the progress meetings I would be told I was on plan, the last progress meeting, 2 weeks before being fired, I was on plan for all but one item. During the 2 weeks that followed I made HUGE progress on some really complicated issues (BTW, these complicated issues were only solved almost 3 months later after one of the smartest people, two levels above me, tackled it with the help of high level Microsoft techs).

    On the day I was fired, I thought it was a progress meeting and I sent all parties involved a status update. They didn’t even read it. They started the meeting out with you’re fired — this was over the phone. Later, they sent me a copy of the status update from two weeks before, updated on the day I was fired with the supervisor’s notes saying that I was not on plan with 80% of the items. Mind you this same document showed that I had been on plan two weeks before with 90% of the items.

    I’ve been on state disability for almost 12 months — it ends soon and have no idea how I’m going to survive financially. My COBRA insurance is ending at the end of this month. I am praying that the first round of BOTOX injections are going to do something to improve my situation and that the neuro-opthamalogist I’m supposed to see next week can help with the double vision.

    Thanks for “listening” to my story.

  • ocprgmr
    5 years ago

    Yikes, sorry for the wall of text.

    To clarify, I had 3 supervisors during the time mentioned in the post. First one was great and accommodating. The second one was the one that put me on FMLA and actually was okay. When the second supervisor was promoted, the new supervisor (my last) was overworked — the company was consolidating many employees under fewer supervisors. His demeanor changed drastically at that time and that’s when my career started going down the drain. Both negative reviews were from my last supervisor.

  • Lori Lilley
    5 years ago

    I worked for America’s largest retailer, and was let go due to migraines. Never mind the FMLA, and doctors notes for every day I missed. I had been sent home on more than one occasion because I couldn’t stand up to do my job.

    After 4 years I was let go. I contacted the labor board, which was willing to fight for me, but they were going after the manager that was made to fire me, not the one who ordered it.

  • DitzzzyWoman
    5 years ago

    Yes, I shared my migraine history with my employers. The hardest one was an ocular migraine and I lost vision in my left eye and could not read the material to the people I called. My husband had to come get me for that one because I was unable to drive. I just learned to keep migraine meds on hand at all time and managed to work through the pain until I got home. Finally, I had to quit between 2 jobs, financial stresses, migraines(which has increased to 24 a month) and chronic pain. I never wanted to go on disability but the nervous breakdown and my removing myself from prescription pain meds were just too much to handle. The migraines have decreased to about 10-12 a month but all the other stresses are there. I do miss work :o(

  • shawnhensger
    5 years ago

    Like many of the comments below I’ve had horror story’s about migraines and at work. But I’m grate full for the boss i work for now not only does he not mind much when i have a migraine start while at work hes taken me home to the er and waited at the er with me but also notices small changes in me and my behavior right before or after a migraine is happening or happened.

  • valeriefago
    5 years ago

    I have many horror stories from work with regards to my migraines. I work for the Department of Corrections as a Sergeant. During my training year, my shift commander made me leave work early to go to the ER (he had someone drive me). Upon return a few days later my training Lt. actually said to me, you need to prove to me that you want this job and not being here isn’t proving it to me. Seriously?? Needless to say, him and I had quite a nice sit down chat. I have been verbally, mentally and emotionally abuse by coworkers, both online and at work. One of my all time favorite stories from work is a horrible night that landed me in the ER yet again. I was in charge of running mainline (when the inmates come to the chow hall to eat dinner). I had eaten prior to this (spaghetti of all things). Towards the end of the marathon inmate meal, I felt a migraine coming on. It was a rainy day so we were stuck with having to have dayroom out on the housing unit instead of being able to send the inmates outside to yard. By the time dayroom got started, I felt like death. I had two relatively new officers running both sides of my housing unit and an overtime (read, “I’m not doing anything”) downtime officer. I had 260 inmates out and about and there I am, barely able to stand, let alone hold my head up. The majority of the inmates know I suffer from migraines and they have an understanding. Every 5 minutes, I stumbled my way to the bathroom to vomit and return to sit back down. Amazingly, the only people to ask if I was ok and if there was anything they could do were the inmates. My coworkers carried on like nothing was amiss. I was too sick to even make a radio call to my Lt. Many inmates asked if they needed to get someone to help. I couldn’t even talk. Sometimes that place completely amazes me.

  • Dancing with Dogs
    5 years ago

    This is a GREAT discussion.

    I also worked for a 500 company, had FMLA, had both enemies and friends( typically people who had migraines themselves). Management started requiring that my direct boss “ok” me when I needed to leave for migraine. On some occasions, when my boss wasn’t available,I was made to stay til she could be located. On one occasion, my superiors made me stay “online” talking with customers til my boss could be found. I was so sick that at one point I had to ask the customer is I could call her right back…I had to vomit into the waste basket..very humiliating. They were obviously monitoring my calls because within moments the same superiors making me stay came over and chastised me. Crazy!!

  • Dancing with Dogs
    5 years ago

    sorry…meant Fortune 500..

  • chrystalwoods
    5 years ago

    I have dealt with migraines off and on since I was nine years old. I have been fired from jobs because of missing work due to these. Recently I have been employed in a factory for a little over a year, My absolute triggers are scents of vanilla and lavender. When I asked to be moved away from a coworker because of her perfumes, I was told by a supervisor that maybe I shouldn’t be working at all. When I asked him how my illness was any different then say cancer, his response was that migraines isn’t an illness that should be accommodated. I have missed a lot of work with this company, have taken 5 weeks off due to migraines, that’s not including all the times I have called in sick. I have had blood tests and mri that show nothing. I am at my wits end because I am looking at losing my job. The employer doesn’t care about the reasons, they just think I am unreliable. Nothing seems to work longer than a month or so. So being upfront about your migraines is just a 50/50 chance with the employers. The saying ‘It’s just business nothing personal”.

  • Angela1
    5 years ago

    This is exactly what happened to me, I suffer with FHM, Hemiplegic migraine, coupled with Meneiers Disease, the symptoms are vertigo, dizzy spells, vomiting ect. I was told by my employer that I should have the week off due to the certificate from my GP, when I returned to work, I got fired because of the time off…confused…hell yeah. I couldn’t understand why, I was very up front with my health conditions, they knew that this was troublesome to me. I thought I was safe, and I was doing well..this was not the case. When I asked ACAS about the conditions, they said there was very little that I could do about it.

    The company is a well known insurance company, who word the contract perfectly so that you have no leg to stand on. It would seem that employment law is so different now, that any one’s job is not safe.

  • Brad Pahel
    5 years ago

    Worked for a Fortune 500 company for over 16 years and my migraines started about 5 years into my employment. I did everything the right way and was using FMLA and then I was fired. It is really sad and I am at a point in my life now where I never thought I would be and never have been, unemployed. It has been a really hard hit and with my age (approx. 50) finding another meaningful job is almost impossible.

  • Christine Hennessy
    7 years ago

    Thankfully I can say that my boss has been absolutely wonderful in understanding what I deal with when I get a migraine. I can honestly say that she’s been more understanding than one neurologist that I saw a few years back.

  • Catherine Charrett-Dykes
    7 years ago

    thank you for this repost….it happened to come in very handy today.

  • David Good
    7 years ago

    I think it’s best to disclose a disability after you are hired so there is no discrimination in the hiring process.

  • Vicki Thompson
    7 years ago

    I gave my employer information on the legitimacy of migraine being a disease, symptoms, etc. and asked them to read it and that they put it in my personnel file. I have been written up for absentee problems, and when prompted to write how to improve on it, I wrote, “I will try not to have any more migraines.” What do you do?

  • Trina Driver
    7 years ago

    I bet there is a lawyer that would love to take on u employer!

  • Renee Dangerfield
    7 years ago

    Wow, great discussion. I’ve had some very simliar negative experiences with work and family! My employer does ‘lip service’ to caring about employee wellness, but when it came to treating me with care and respect when I was struggling with my migraines, it was not there at all. And when they became almost daily last February and were all consuming, they contested my application for medical leave. It had to go to a medical tribunal and over my manager’s head in order for me to get medical leave and not leave wtihout pay. Normally when employees are ill (cancer) cards and flowers are sent every few months and the entire staff signs the card. I haven’t received one card! Who are they to play God? I was a valued employee and am now pond scum because of my health issues that I can’t control.

  • Chris Zahn
    7 years ago

    Since I have FML for migraines & our human resources FML person also lives with chronic migraine, I’m pretty fortunate. I’ve always been honest if I have needed to call in. The funny thing is with my newest job, I haven’t had to. They haven’t disappeared, but are greatly reduced.

  • Betty Ketterman Rittmeyer
    7 years ago

    Reading the comments by the people after this article… wow I can so relate!

  • Donna Russell
    7 years ago

    I’m confused why the following is on the list of Considerations: “If you work in certain settings, such as the medical field, your employer needs to know about communicable disease to protect patients.”

  • Mary Sue Rasmussen Channer
    7 years ago

    does not appl7y to migraines, thats for sure

  • Kasey Ocheltree
    7 years ago

    Ive been ‘let go’ from MANY jobs because of my migraines…so no, I don’t tell them upon hiring or any other time.

  • Natalie Senécal
    7 years ago

    always been honest right from the start. no use in hidding anything, since I have chronic migraines, and never know when I’m going to get one, I prefer to be upfront that way there’s no surprises and its up to them if they wish to hire us, keep us on, so that everyone is aware.

  • Elizabeth Washam Reitzel
    7 years ago

    I only disclosed when I started having migraines, and my employer treated me like a leper and a fake. he gave me the distinct impression that he was one of those who believed it was just a headache and I could take something for it. (“we have aspirin and tylenol in the first aid kit in the breakroom.”) I only tell employers now if I get the vibe that they’ll understand what I’m going through. although I’d never wish one on anybody, I’d prefer working for someone who has at least had one migraine in their life so they’ll know what I’m going through.

  • Delaney
    4 years ago

    I hear that! My boss in my old job moved on and his replacement came into my office one day saying he had such an excruciating headache… I asked if he would like an Advil and he said “Oh, no, it’s not bad enough for THAT!” No wonder we get misunderstood.

  • Jessica Bickley
    7 years ago

    I think, next to having a migraine, that being told, “Here, take an aspirin/tylenol/advil. I get migraines all the time!” is just as bad. A common misconception that many people have is that migraines are just really bad headaches, and they really aren’t.

  • Nealy Gissara
    7 years ago

    I have been upfront………. My boss had me sign up for fmla and I got it but when I had to recert I was denied due to being short hours of work………… Made no sense to me

  • Rosette Alcantara Doyle
    8 years ago

    Sadly the community as a whole is very ignorant regarding migraine cases. I spoke with a close friend the other day and tried very hard to explain how distinctly different migraines were compared to headaches and I still don’t think he quite understood. Trying to explain what Hemiplegic migraines were was near impossible.
    People cannot quantify migraines, it is not measurable to most people. You have asthma or COPD, your oxygen level is low. You have cancer, your cells are abnormal, or you lose your hair from chemo. You have diabetes, your blood sugar is abnormal when measuring with a glucometer. But when you have a migraine, it is to easy for others to say you are faking it, because there is nothing about your disease that can prove that you are actually in some sort of migraine crisis. Sure my left arm and leg are flaccid, but she could be faking that. Or she can’t talk very well, but anyone can fake that as well.
    It is frustrating, demeaning and crushing to one’s self esteem.
    I am also currently on Social Security Disability and was granted this in the summer of 2009. I have since tried to return to work as a nurse, desperate to find a job. I could not return to floor nursing or even return as a nurse case manager at the insurance company I worked prior to becoming ill (even though I tried and reapplied). Noise and visual stimulation, photophobia, weather are some of my triggers, to name a few. Also I have Meniere’s disease and I am hard of hearing with vertigo and tinnitus. I did try to apply at a job as a phone triage nurse, and I was hired. I fit in very well with the company, but after being sick so often during the orientation phase, I had to quit, or risk being fired for the first time in my life. Office adjustments were not considered as orientation had to be done in a certain area and certain people.
    I have had other job interviews as well and was honest with the employer regarding my disability, but was not even granted a second interview. I am currently working with Vocational Rehab under the Ticket to Work Program that SS offers, and am taking classes in medical billing/records. I am not even sure if anything will come of this, but I am willing to try. The classes are being paid for and it is done on line.
    A stay at home nursing job would be ideal, but those are very few and far between and since having not actively worked now for almost 3 years, not likely, although I still look:-)

  • Angela1
    5 years ago

    This is exactly what happened to me, I suffer with FHM, Hemiplegic migraine, coupled with Meneiers Disease, the symptoms are vertigo, dizzy spells, vomiting ect. I was told by my employer that I should have the week off due to the certificate from my GP, when I returned to work, I got fired because of the time off…confused…hell yeah. I couldn’t understand why, I was very up front with my health conditions, they knew that this was troublesome to me. I thought I was safe, and I was doing well..this was not the case. When I asked ACAS about the conditions, they said there was very little that I could do about it.

    The company is a well known insurance company, who word the contract perfectly so that you have no leg to stand on. It would seem that employment law is so different now, that any one’s job is not safe.

  • Diana-Lee author
    8 years ago

    It’s not a communicable disease.

  • 8 years ago

    Great article, but I have one question – when did Migraines become a communicable disease?

  • 8 years ago

    Great article, but I have one question… How are Migraines a communicable disease?

  • Denise Brown Routzahn
    8 years ago

    I had missed quite a bit of work due to migraines as well and spent quite a bit of time in and out of the hospital so I decided to disclose to my employer and tried to educate them regarding migraines but was wrote up after spending three days in the hospital with IV therapy to get rid of a two week migraine that would not stop. My neurologist had taken me off work for that two weeks and when I got back I returned to my first and final written warning. I was let go this past week on a bogus claim. I am now having a very difficult time finding a new job and fighting with daily migraines.

  • Denise Brown Routzahn
    8 years ago

    I don’t know about an attorney; however, I do know I want my job back but they are not going to give it back to me. I was told I that they had me on too many violations but I was never wrote up on any violations. I don’t get it. I do know their attitudes changed dramatically with my migraines and the therapy I was on. I even got in trouble for the medicine I was prescribed because it was a class II narcotic and I was not suppose to be taking it while working but I couldn’t work without my meds, so what was I suppose to do? They were really unreasonable. It didn’t even phase me other than to keep my migraines down to a minimum. It didn’t make me loopy, lightheaded, dizzy, or any other side effect so I don’t understand their issues with me taking my prescribed meds. I will never be going back to the job I love more than anything. It’s sad really.

  • Michelle Springston Pingel
    8 years ago

    Hmmm…lawyer??? or is it even worth it? I was told by a lawyer that I had grounds to sue a former employer of mine that had let me go, knowing my mental health issues ( I have since had my headaches of 23 years been diagnosed as Clusters). Double whammy. But employers are very shrewd and legal-savvy when it comes to how they cover their tracks as they let someone go. As was mentioned above, migraines aren’t “seen” as cancer is. Those who don’t have our pain don’t think our pain is…pain.

  • Joanna Scoby
    8 years ago

    I’m on SS disability right now and not working. But at my last job, my boss reacted horribly to my migraines. I did mention them before I got the job, just to give them a heads up. But that didn’t seem to be a problem. When it actually came down to having the migraines, they didn’t understand at all, though. I worked there for over 3 years and besides trouble with one supervisor, everything was fine. Then I hit my head and went from 1 or 2 migraines a month, to 3-4 a week, and eventually 6 days a week. I tried educating my boss and supervisors about migraines, but that didn’t help. I went to my boss to ask for adjustments because of the disability. Instead of helping me, she put me into a position that was exactly the opposite of what I asked for. Of course I wasn’t able to do this very long and ended up getting fired. Considering I worked for the city government, I thought this would be handled better, but my boss kept telling people that I was faking it. It was the worst handling of a medical problem that I’ve ever seen.

  • sheri2u2
    6 years ago

    Joanna,
    I’m so sorry to read how you’ve been treated. And since this posting was done so long ago I hope you will be able to read my reply. If you worked for city government you qualified for FMLA leave consideration. This is something, once the employer is aware of a serious health condition, employers are obligated to provider for you with the opportunity to sign-up for FMLA.

  • Brad Merklin Pat Rose
    8 years ago

    If someone has never had a migraine, they have no clue Joanna. We both know it is not something that too many people could fake.

  • Diana Lee
    8 years ago

    Even though the law is supposed to protect us as long as they come up with a pretext of another reason to fire us they can do so. It’s a very precarious situation to find yourself in.

  • Denise Brown Routzahn
    8 years ago

    I wish we were protected no matter what but they can make anything up as an excuse to the reason to fire you. I am 39 and have been fired for the first time in my life a couple weeks ago after suffering several migraines. I am absolutely devastated by it and I know the reasoning is bogus but they had to make something up to get rid of me.

  • Terri Lannings Johnson
    8 years ago

    I disclosed my disability up front because I limit myself to what kind of jobs I can actually handle. I am on SSDI so I always tell the employer that they get a huge tax break by hiring me. That is a plus. If the job is going to be too hard for me to handle with migraines than I just don’t apply for it. For example, I was just called by a former employer to be a three month substitute. She knows my disabilities and limits. She knows what she is getting. She calls me a lot for jobs like these. She knows that when I can, that I give more than the average worker and she appreciates my education as well. What limits I do have in made up for in my work performance when I do feel well.

    Great topic. Thanks for posting this ad.

    God bless,

  • Dawn M Hadland
    8 years ago

    How does an employer get a tax break by hiring someone on SSD? I have never heard of that and I was on SSD for many years.

  • Barbie Haberman
    8 years ago

    My manager knew about my headaches, I was up front with her about them, meds, etc. I do however, have to go in to see my Neurologist every 6 months, he fills out a form and in return secures my employment. No matter the number of headaches I get, it counts as 1 ocurence……I am so very thankful for this.

  • Barbie Haberman
    8 years ago

    Thankfully I have been able to maintain my job, although admittedly have stopped from applying at other places because you have to work a year to qualify for the FMLA. I WISH I could go a year without a migraine.

  • Susie Adams
    8 years ago

    Mines triggered by florescent lighting, weather fronts and of course stress

  • Susie Adams
    8 years ago

    bookmarked this… good article

  • Cathy Frost
    8 years ago

    I was very upfront about my diagnosis to my employer and it backfired on me. All of the sudden, 5-people had obtained their PhD’s within 5-mins and were telling me that I was not having migraine attacks, that they were (fill in the blank). It got to a point for me that when I missed a day of work because of my migraines, when asked how I was doing (by all these doctors), I would just say “fine” because I did not want to get into a “discussion” about it.

  • Donna Davis
    8 years ago

    I believe in the hiring process your personal health issues shouldn’t be addressed. Individuals shouldn’t be put on the spot to have to answer a personal topic such as their health. At some point I believe the employee will have to address the issue of their migraine disease. Although you can’t see my migraine alot of times it is written all over my face. Every job I’ve ever had, had reason to question why I had turned the lights down and was wearing sunglasses. Or why I was uncontrollably tearing from the lights. There’s a long list of symptoms that can’t be hidden. I have been very blessed to have very understanding employers who know I am reliable and I try to work around this awful disease on weekly if not daily basis.

  • Kasey Ocheltree
    7 years ago

    Denise Brown Routzahn nicely put

  • Denise Brown Routzahn
    8 years ago

    I worked with kids as well and it is still no one’s business if someone has health issues as long as it is not a communicable disease and migraines are not. It is a matter of privacy. I don’t feel it is anyone’s business, especially since I have been discriminated against because of my migraines and I am a good employee. I take my responsibilities very seriously and love working with kids and the law. We have HIPPA for a reason and it is protect our medical information. Why should we have to give that information to potential employers? It’s none of their business.

  • Terri Lannings Johnson
    8 years ago

    In the case of working with children, I firmly believe in asking health questions. This is the field that I work in.

  • Janis Nilson
    8 years ago

    The several employers that I had, and disclosed this information to (up front, upon being hired), treated me well, for the first year or so. I was the type of employee that gave 110% knowing full and well that I had to make up for my frequent absences. I believe that was noticed by the bosses. However, slowly but surely, my responsibilities within the offices (which were all medical offices), got to be more menial and lesser in responsibilities. Until sooner or later, I was either told I needed to go to part time, or I was let go completely. Even with my headache issues, I KNOW that I produced way more work than some of the “healthy” people in the office. It all comes down to “reliability”. And in their eyes…I simply wasn’t. I can’t fault them for that…they do have a business to run as well. But each time I was let go…if was under the guise of something else, with a “hint” of my migraine issue thrown in there. I won employee of the quarter, and a month later, let go. How does that happen? I suppose (and certainly no offense here at all)…if I had say…cancer and needed treatments, or time off, the story would be completely different. Because people can’t see a migraine…and if they have never experienced one…well, to them…it is just a “headache”…take an aspirin and you will be fine in 20 minutes. Simply not true as any real sufferer will attest to. I am now 40, and have had to go on permanent SS Disability. And while everyday is not filled with a migraine….the days that aren’t sometimes can leave you feeling useless or even worthless. In my case that is true because I have so much to give and help other people, but because of this condition, I am unable to do just that.

  • Sylvia T
    4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing. I can totally relate to this, I feel like I am reading my own story with my employer…

  • Delaney
    4 years ago

    I think this is probably the rule and not the exception. Disability legislation and HR accommodations notwithstanding, employers will compare us to someone who “hasn’t called in sick in 3 years”. Right now I am in a job where I have realized that my physical presence is what makes the appearance of reliability… so I drag myself in and nod in front of the screen, seeing double, unable to concentrate or read, but as I’m “at work” it doesn’t create a problem. Still, a very sad dilemma to be in.

  • Lindsey Melnyk
    7 years ago

    how did you get on SS disability????? i tried for 5 long years to get on it, to no avail! i even had a hearing and everything, but was denied over and over again! it was a complete waste of time!!!!! i have been suffering from migraines since i was 3, and am now 28. i have been fired from jobs as well for migraines, and the absences that come w/ the territory. i too wish i could find an employer that understands fully of what my condition entails, but it seems that that’s just an impossible probability! now i can’t even find a job because the economy is so bad, and when i have an interview with someone, it seems to go great until i explain my condition, but then NEVER get a call back! simply put: there needs to be more awareness about migraines and headache disorders out there for the general public (and employers and business owners) to understand our condition! but as us sufferers know…..they will NEVER understand until THEY have had one themselves! and it makes me sad to have to say that, but unfortunately it’s very true!

  • Cathy Frost
    8 years ago

    Jackie – I am 36 and am on STD right now for my migraines because they are out of control due to another incident. My employer is trying everything they can to figure out how to get rid of me. They have sent me a memo (with my STD) packet that was full of lies of this that I did and what they did. Luckily, I had my ducks in a row and replied to it with the facts. It is sad. To them, migraines just don’t exist. They are not open to this. Unless they have experienced one, they have no idea why you can’t work when you have an attack. It is sad.

  • Jackie DeSantis-Patterson
    8 years ago

    I understand and completely agree with you too. The problem that I am having is I am 31, I have a 10 year old son to take care of, i have been able to control my migraines for the most part up until the last month and a half. They hadn’t been this outta control since july 2008 when I was fired from my last job.

  • Alex Perez-Estrada
    8 years ago

    Me three…

  • Cathy Frost
    8 years ago

    I understand and completely agree with you.

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