Discrimination due to Epilepsy…or a Different Turn of Events?

It’s a question I tend to field often…and it’s certainly one I ask myself repeatedly. Did I lose my job because of my Epilepsy? I hear and read that people feel they have lost their employment due to their seizures, and it’s something I have considered for months and months. Could they have? Would they have? Was it my seizures that led them to tell me there was no longer a spot for me?

I must give a bit of history, albeit brief. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy in January 2003 after a bout with meningitis and encephilitis. The whole illness was absolutely catastrophic. My now-husband and I were engaged and planning our wedding. I was working for my company, tele-commuting and planning a massive meeting. I thought I had the flu, until I had a series of 4 grand mal seizures one night and slipped into a coma. Brain damage, memory loss, major cognitive and language issues…all in all, it took about 9 months of rehabilitation and therapy for me to become a functioning person again.

And, when I made my return to life, my job was waiting for me. And, I worked in that job, for that same company for the next 7 years. Most everyone was understanding and cognizant of my Epilepsy. But, I never made a secret of it either. I endured 5 brain surgeries during my last 4 years with the company, and each time, they were kind and welcoming upon my return. They were my friends, my colleagues and they also came to understand a great deal about Epilepsy.

It was always amazing to me when I would walk the halls…how many people would ask me how I was feeling, or was I still having a lot of seizures. Was it a perfect situation? No. I had very little chance to move ahead in the company, but that was not entirely their fault. I struggled each and every day to stay well and to complete my responsibilities. So, when someone asks, my answer is always, “Epilepsy did not cost me my job, but it certainly didn’t help me keep it.” The company changed and things were realigned, so my job disappeared. And that’s the truth.

As for others, I hear so many stories of people who believe they have lost their positions because of their seizures. Many of these are people who are open about their Epilepsy and refuse to conceal it because of their advocacy priorities. If you feel your rights have been violated, and you’ve lost your job because of your seizures, there is help for you. The Epilepsy Foundation has some very good resources and will assist you in finding the right path to take. The ADA, which was expanded on January 1 2009, was enacted to protect, including people with Epilepsy.

True, you are not alone in your fight if you’ve been discriminated against, but you also must determine if indeed you were wronged. It’s so easy to place blame, but more difficult to understand the realities of true discrimination. I wish you all the very best…there is help out there!

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Personal Care 101
July 3, 2010 at 4:02 am

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ultrasound technician June 29, 2010 at 7:51 am

Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

Jeremy October 5, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I know all too well about losing a job to epilepsy. In my case it was not only a job but a career that I absolutely loved. I was a firefighter at the time I was diagnosed and had been for 8 years. I had decided right out of high school that this was the career path I was meant to take.
When I was diagnosed it was about 1 month to the day after my 28th birthday. I had never had a seizure before and there was no history of epilepsy in my family. I reported to work at the firehouse for my 24 hour shift, shortly after arriving at the station I had a grand mal seizure, causing me to fall, strike my head and cause a moderate concussion. At this point I was put on leave until things got figured out. Shortly after I was cleared and allowed to return to work in a limited capacity. I was a fire apparatus driver at the time. I was allowed to operate the fire truck on fires, however, for obvious reasons, I was not allowed to enter burning buildings. Eventually I was given the opportunity to accept a position as fire prevention officer/captain. I jumped at this chance since I had all the training necessary to do the job and I could still keep a job at the firehouse. I did not want to endanger the lives of my co-workers either. I held this position for roughly 3 years. During my time in this position I had a couple seizures while I was in my office, no major problems suffered other than a couple days off work until I was cleared to return by my neurologist.
Then there came a day in August of 2005 when I had taken my lunch break and arranged a ride with a family member to pick up my personal vehicle. Unfortunately on my way home from this “quick” errand I had to run, I suffered a seizure while driving home and ended up in a single-vehicle collision.
After the collision the fire chief as well as the fire marshal showed up at the hospital to make sure I was okay. They told me not to worry about anything and to just make sure I was okay, they would see me when I got back to work. When I went back to work about a week later, I was met by the fire chief who told me that I was being placed on paid administrative leave while me status was being reviewed. I didnt understand. I had a meeting with the fire chief, fire marshal and a representative of the firefighters union that I belonged to. At that time I was told that I was being disciplined for missing an appointment because of my crash. I was told to report back to the fire station the next week to meet with the HR rep from the City as well as the fire marshal and the fire chief, I requested that I also have a representative from the union there as well.
The meeting was held and I was handed a letter from the HR rep advising me that I was being placed on 1 week of non-paid administrative leave and was told I needed to sign a paper. As soon as I signed the paper, even though I disagreed with the disciplinary action since it was something out of my control, I was handed a second letter stating that effective the day on which my administrative leave was up, that my employement with the City was being terminated because it was costing the City too much money in overtime costs when I was off work.
I immediately contacted a lawyer, the ADA and the Epilepsy Foundation for assistance. All of which thought I had a great case. After spending $2,000 in attorney’s fees, my lawyer advised me that they had to take themselves off the case and I would need to find another attorney if I intended to persue the matter. I did not have the financial ability to take on a City and I could not find a lawyer to take the case pro bono.
As a result I did not get to continue my job in the fire service and ended up taking another job that paid me 50% less than what I had been making.
I have learned a lot from this experience. I still miss my job as a firefighter and working in that career field. I still remain friends with those I worked with. In the end I found out that part of the problems started because the fire marshal did not like the way I was doing things, however he never brought this to my attention previously.
All I can say to those out there in similar situations is to be very careful with your employers.

Sharon February 16, 2012 at 9:26 pm

I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you. My situation is that I got pulled over after after a seizure. My employer had previous knowledge of my epilepsy but it was well controlled and I had worked for them for several years. After being notified four times that I would be in a medical treatment facility, they terminated me with no warning or pay or benefits.

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