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Do You Have To Accommodate An Employee With Fibromyalgia?


Fibromyalgia may be one of the lesser known diseases or ailments, and so when an employee comes to you asking for accommodations, you may be unsure of whether or not you have to provide these.

The Americans With Disabilities Act

Remember that the Americans With Disabilities Act does not have a specific list of qualifying diseases or ailments. Generally, when a diagnosed ailment affects a major life activity—or is perceived as doing so—the ailment will be covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, and that includes fibromyalgia.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia can be a bit controversial because it is often diagnosed due to the appearance of a number of symptoms that happen together, and often, it is diagnosed when there are no other discernible causes for those symptoms. It can also cause extreme tiredness, which is why it is also referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

One hallmark symptom of Fibromyalgia is long term, continuing pain, which may be in the neck and back, but can also appear anywhere on the body. Often, victims are in chronic, ongoing pain, which may not have a specific source or cause. The pain can then cause secondary problems, like lack of sleep or depression.

Is Fibromyalgia Covered?

The ADA can, in some cases, cover and thus protect people with fibromyalgia. The reason why this is conditional, and not absolute in every case, is that some people have more severe fibromyalgia than others, and the ailment must be severe enough to have a major impact on the victim’s life activities. Some victims fit this category, but others do not.

However, the ADA is very broad—in fact, it was amended in 2009, to make it broader (more inclusive). That means if you are uncertain, you should err on the side of providing accommodations.

Are Accommodations Needed?

But just because fibromyalgia may be a covered ailment isn’t the end of the story, because the law doesn’t require employers to make accommodations where they would involve serious difficulty or expense.

So, for example, if someone with fibromyalgia may want an accommodation that requires a more comfortable office chair, or who may need to take a few breaks throughout the day to ease pain, or who requests to telecommute a few times a month, that may be reasonable. An employee who wants to be able to come and go as they please, or to work part time on full time pay, may not be making a reasonable request for an accommodation.

Treat Employees Kindly

Whatever you decide when it comes to accommodations, remember never to insult, tease, or discriminate against someone with Fibromyalgia (or allow other employees to do so. That is one way to make sure your business gets in trouble under the ADA.

Call the West Palm Beach employment attorneys at Pike & Lustig today if you have a business law or employment law case or question.



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