Work and Migraines
Various physical and mental disabilities can interfere with a person's work; and migraines, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, are one of these disabilities. There are a number of things that an employer can do to accommodate an employee with migraines, such as providing noise canceling headsets or sound absorption panels, providing flexible leave when the employee is experiencing a migraine, and requesting that employees voluntarily refrain from wearing fragrances.
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), migraine headaches are considered impairment. Therefore, people with migraine headaches who are substantially limited in a major life activity will have a disability under the ADA. However, even if a person with alcoholism meets the definition of disability, an employer may discipline, discharge, or deny employment to an alcoholic whose current use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct to the extent that he or she is not "qualified" (EEOC, 1992).
The following are suggested questions for employers to consider:
- What limitations is the employee with migraine headaches experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee's job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems?
- Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee with migraine headaches been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee with migraine headaches to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training regarding migraine headaches?