ADA Accommodations & The Workplace

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2011.

ADA Accommodations & Migraine Triggers: Making the Workplace Work for You

If you're struggling with migraine triggers or other migraine-related issues at work you may have the legal right to request that your employer make certain adjustments in consideration of your health needs.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to accommodate the needs of their employees (and job applicants) when doing so would not cause the employer an undue hardship. This means that if you are qualified for the job and it would not be too burdensome, your employer is required to work with you to make the changes necessitated by your disability.

The standard employers are required to meet is to make reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations fall into one of three categories: (1) Changes to the job application process that allow people with disabilities to be considered for a job; (2) Changes to the work environment that enable a person with a disability to perform the essential functions of his or her job; and (3) Changes that enable a disabled person to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment equal to those experienced by a person in a similar situation without a disability.

What kind of accommodations might you request? Fluorescent lighting, a horrible migraine trigger for many people, is present in most offices and public spaces. Requesting an ADA accommodation for alternate lighting options is one way you can try to address this problem. I was able to get the fluorescent bulbs taken out of my work space and have a lamp provided at an old job. It was a simple change, but very helpful in allowing me to do my work. An accommodation request could be used as a strategy for eliminating certain odors or other common triggers from your work space. Unfortunately sometimes our coworkers don't realize their perfume or cologne can be a nasty migraine trigger, so alerting your human resources department to this issue can help you get it solved. Finally, your request could take the form of a request for a more flexible schedule, an exception to ordinary sick or personal leave policies, the chance to work from home or unpaid time off.

If you want to explore the idea of making a reasonable accommodation request, here are a few tips:

1. Gather information.

Before you make your request, determine what responsibilities your employer has, what your job requirements are and whether you can reasonably meet them and what changes you need and whether they will still allow you to perform the essential functions of your job. Spend as much time as you can reading about accommodations and learning everything you can. (Some helpful resources are linked below).

2. Put your request in writing.

You are not required to, but making a paper trail is always advisable.

3. Include a report from your doctor(s) with your request.

This may not be required, but it is a good idea to put your best foot forward by having your doctor describe you condition and how it affects you and what might help you deal with it.

4. Consider seeking professional advice.

An attorney can help you decipher the complicated terms and standards involved in determining whether you are entitled to request or receive reasonable accommodations.

For more information about seeking ADA accommodations, check out these resources:

The Department of Labor's Job Accommodation Network provides publications that explain more about how to request an accommodation, a sample request letter and tips on how to approach your situation.

JAN: Practical Guide to Requesting & Negotiating Accommodation
JAN: Ideas for Writing an Accommodation Request Letter

This article, which you can download in PDF, is another good resource:

How to Seek Reasonable Accommodation for a Physical or Mental Disability

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