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Are Migraines A Disability Under Ada

Migraine And Disability Under The Ada

How to Get a 50% VA Rating for Migraines

One of the most memorable legislative achievements during the administration of former President George H. W. Bush was the passing and enactment of the of 1990. When Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa introduced the bill before Congress, he actually used sign language in certain parts for the benefit of his brother, who lives with a hearing disability. This important law essentially prohibits the discrimination of Americans based on their disabilities.

Migraines And The Americans With Disabilities Act

The 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/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act .

Are Migraines Considered A Disability

By Matthew Marks on September 7th, 2017 in In The News

Has a migraine ever caused you to miss work? Are you having difficulty taking care of yourself because the pain of your headaches is so intense? Then you may consider your migraines to be a disability. But can you file a disability claim and receive benefits for such a condition?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act , migraines are not an automatic disability. Many migraine claims have been denied. Getting approved is difficult but not impossible. Each situation is different.

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Inability To Perform A Specific Job Is Not A Substantial Impairment On Ability To Work Says Second Circuit In Ada Case

In Woolf v. Strada, decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in February 2020, the court considered whether the plaintiffs inability to perform his particular job as a result of migraines and stress arising from the circumstances surrounding his job gave rise to a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act , as amended.

In support of his claims, Mr. Woolf argued that his stress-induced migraines constituted a disability under the ADA because they substantially limited him in the major life activity of working . Although the court acknowledged that his migraines arguably affected his work performance, it ultimately rejected his claims because he conceded that the migraines were related to the stress caused by working under his direct supervisors, and he believed that he could perform the same job if he were transferred to a different location or worked under different supervisors. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of the employer explaining, where a plaintiffs condition leaves him unable to perform only a single, specific job, he has failed to establish a substantial impairment to his major life activity of working.

Are Migraines Classified As A Disability

What are ADA Disabilities? Do I Qualify for American

The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for an employer with 15 or more employees to discriminate against any worker with a disability. The ADA defines a disability as any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individuals major life activities.

Under the ADA guidelines, migraines may be defined as a disability, especially if they are frequent or severe. Employees simply must be able to demonstrate that their migraines are serious enough to limit their ability to perform work duties within the work environment.

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Migraine May Be A Disability Depending Upon Whether It Impacts The Employees Ability To Perform Their Job

According to Shruti Kulkarni, JD, Principal Attorney at Sequel Legal/ Aimed Alliance, this answer is not as simple as a yes or no. Maybe. Not everyone with migraine disease will be considered to have a disability because disability is determined on a case by case basis rather than based on a list of conditions.

Basically, you need to prove that your condition is serious enough that your migraine attacks impact or limit your ability to complete tasks required for your job. You also need to prove that you are qualified for your position at work, and that- with or without reasonable accommodations you will still be able to perform essential duties of your position. While the legal language of with or without reasonable accommodations seems confusing, it emphasizes that a worker may use accommodations, but they still must be able to complete the jobs. The tasks must still be performed, but the way the worker does it may be adjusted.

What Happens When An Employee Complains About Migraines

Do you tell em to buzz off and remind them that they are not disabled? Heck no. Remember, it is very possible that an employee with migraines may not be able to perform a broad range of jobs. It is also possible that an employees migraines, depending on their severity, may substantially impact other major life activities.

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Instead, play it smart. Engage in an interactive dialogue with the employee. That is, work with the employee no pun intended to attempt to arrive at a reasonable accommodation that will allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.

Also, recognize that a migraine, if severe enough, could be a serious health condition and trigger the employers obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Just be sure to request FMLA certification, because employees who claim to have migraines, may not necessarily have them. Consider requesting re-certification too.

As always, if you have questions about how to address employee health issues, contact an employment lawyer for assistance.

Attorney Eric Meyer will be leading a group of HR pros in a panel discussion on Social Media in the Workplace Where is it Today, Where is it Going Tomorrow? at the TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyers blog, The Employer Handbook.

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Can An Employee Lose Their Job For Having Migraines

When an employee is missing work due to migraines, it can start to affect their job performance. That doesnt mean employers can terminate employment without going through a process, first. This should include:

  • An interactive process. This is a discussion between the employee and the employer. It should focus on what job roles are being affected by the migraines and what reasonable accommodations the employer could make.
  • Medical certification. The employee will need to get paperwork filled out by their doctor that indicates they need special accommodation or that they need to take FMLA time.
  • Discussing the situation with the companys labor law expert. Employment laws vary state by state, so before you terminate an employee, its important to make sure you arent leaving your company vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit in the future.

In most cases, making reasonable accommodations for an employee with migraines will be far easier than terminating them. Most employees are looking for small changes to their work environment or flexibility with their hours. That will allow them to do their job without sacrificing their well-being. Approach the situation with an open mind, and it may surprise you to find the proposed solutions are very simple.

What Are Some Common Accommodations For Women With Migraines

VA Disability Benefits for Migraine Headaches

There are a number of ways that employers can make workplace accommodations for women with migraines. These include:

  • Allowing an employee with migraines to move to a private area of the office where she can adjust the office lighting
  • Minimizing the employees exposure to office noise by situating her work space in a quiet part of the office
  • Providing an employee with a place to retreat to when she is having a migraine
  • Allowing teleworking or flexible schedules
  • Adding filters to fluorescent lights
  • Providing anti-glare filters for computer monitors
  • Providing an environmental sound machine or noise cancelling headsets
  • Providing air purification systems
  • Encouraging employees to voluntarily refrain from wearing fragrances or implementing a fragrance-free policy at the office

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Physical Or Mental Impairments

To be disabled under the ADA, you must have a physical or mental impairment. Not everything that keeps you from doing activities is an impairment. But, the ADA uses a broad definition.

A physical impairment is any medical disorder, condition, or loss that affects the body. These can be:

  • Neurological

A mental impairment is any mental or cognitive disorder. This includes:

  • Intellectual disability,

What qualifies for the ADA?

Physical or mental impairments covered by the ADA include:

  • AIDS, and its symptoms
  • Blindness or other visual impairments
  • Cancer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Loss of body parts

Some short-term impairments with little or no lasting effects do not qualify. The ADA does not protect against unfair treatment based on lifestyle.

Conditions that are not impairments include:

  • Common cold or the flu
  • Sprained joint
  • Minor and non-chronic gastrointestinal disorders
  • Broken bone that is expected to heal completely
  • Compulsive gambling
  • Pregnancy
  • Old age
  • Bisexuality or homosexuality

Does drug addiction qualify?

Casual drug use is not an impairment. This applies to unlawful drugs and to prescription drug use. There are few situations where drug addiction qualifies under the ADA. One is if someone has a history of addiction or is thought to be addicted to drugs.The addiction could qualify as an impairment. It is not an impairment if someone has a history of addiction and is now using illegal drugs.

What If My Employer Wont Accommodate My Needs

If your employer is not making reasonable accommodations, it could be a case of discrimination. Its important that you discuss these matters with HR and your supervisors. Having a letter or note from a medical professional can help you get these accommodations approved.

If simple adjustments will not be made to address your health issues, thats when you should get in touch with our law firm. We will hold your workplace accountable for their failure to act.

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Migraines And Employment Rights

Employees with migraines have the same protection that an employee with another major illness or disability would have. That may be surprising news to some employers. 38% of surveyed supervisors said migraines werent always a justifiable reason to call in sick to work.

The stigma of calling in just for a headache keeps many employees from seeking treatment or being honest about why they cant make it in. According to employment law and the federal government, though, migraines count as a serious illness. In some cases, they may even qualify as a disability.

Migraine Workplace Discrimination: How Do I File An Eeoc Charge Against My Employer


The way to file a discrimination charge with the EEOC is to find the EEOC field office in your area and then contact the local EEOC office in person, by mail or by . If you begin the filing process by phone, an EEOC field officer will follow up with you to file the formal charge. If you file in person, bring any supporting documentation for your case to the EEOC field office. You can also bring anyone you want to the meeting, especially if you need language assistance and know someone who can help.

Once you file a discrimination charge, the EEOA will review your letter and if more information is needed, an agency staffer will contact you to gather that information or you may be sent a follow-up questionnaire. At a later date, the EEOC will contact you and may put all the information you sent on an official EEOC charge form and ask you to sign it. Your signature allows the EEOC to begin its investigation.1. What Do I Need To Include in My EEOC Charge?

When you file an EEOC charge by mail, you should include the following information:

  • Your name, address, and telephone number
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the employer you want to file your charge against
  • The number of employees employed there
  • A short description of the events you believe were discriminatory
  • When the events took place
  • Why you believe you were discriminated against based on your migraines
  • Your signature.

2. How Long Do I Have To File My EEOC Charge?

4. Are There Other Agencies I Should Contact?

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Can Migraine Headaches Qualify As Disability Under The Ada

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act an individual with a disability is one who 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. Whether migraine headaches fit under this definition is questionable since the seriousness of migraines can greatly vary from one individual to another. However, if the condition significantly limits or alters life activities, it is entirely possible that migraines can fulfill the definition of a disability.

It is not enough to garner protection under the ADA by simply having something that is classified as a disability. An individual must also demonstrate that he or she is able to perform the essential job functions. In order to prove that, it is generally necessary to maintain a regular and dependable level of attendance.

Performance of essential job functions can be accomplished with or without reasonable accommodations, which include making existing facilities more readily accessible, modification of work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position and modification of policies.

July 31, 2006 at 01:51 PM in Discrimination|Permalink

Reasonable Accommodations For People With Migraines

Reasonable accommodations are a common part of employment law disputes we see at our Sacramento law firm. A reasonable accommodation means adjustments made to work stations or work environments that allow a person with a disability to complete their job duties.

In the case of migraines, this means an employee should inform their supervisors of their condition and make requests to help control possible migraine triggers in the office or work environment. Employees with migraines may have work stations where they can better control light sources to avoid migraine attacks. Fellow employees may be asked to stop wearing strong perfumes or colognes. For work lunches, an employee can be informed of certain food items that contain harmful ingredients.

In addition to controlling triggers for migraines, workplaces can also allow the employee to work remotely if theyre suffering or recovering from a migraine.

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Other Ways To Be Considered As Having A Disability

A record or history of disability

The ADA may consider you to have a disability despite no substantially limiting impairment. This can occur if you have a record of a substantially limiting impairment.

This means that either:

  • You do not have a substantially limiting impairment now, but you had one in the past, or
  • Someone wrongly classified you as having such impairment.

The ADA wants to prevent unfair treatment because of a history of a condition . You are covered even if your medical records show you recovered from a disability. Even if you barely had the condition, the ADA applies as long as it’s on your records.

You can prove unfair treatment under this section. You must show that your employer or school relied on the record indicating your impairment.


  • You have recovered enough to perform all essential functions of the job. But, an employer refuses to hire you due to your history of mental illness.
  • You were mistakenly diagnosed with HIV. A dentist refuses to treat you because of this wrong diagnosis.

Regarded as having an impairment

Someone might believe you have a disability, even if you do not. They may treat you unfairly based on any impairment they believe you have. In this situation, you are considered disabled. This is true whether you have a impairment or not.

Anyone may challenge a disability claim. They must believe the impairment is both temporary and minor. A temporary impairment has an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.


Being Sick Indefinitely With No Cure

Migraine in the Workplace

It means admitting that I cant go to graduate school or law school like Id once dreamed, because I cant realistically commit to such an intense level of work on a long-term basis. It means acknowledging that my career options are limited by my environment . It means admitting that I will be like this, sick, indefinitely.

This is what I am most reluctant to admit: the continuity of my disease.

There is no cure for migraine disease, at least not yet. And, though my migraines do get better, they also get worse. Some months, I may have only a couple per week. Other months, depending on the weather, Im bedridden nearly every night. My disease changes, but it is always present.

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What Qualifies As An Ada Disability

According to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, covered entities should interpret the ADA broadly to include as many disabilities as possible and protect as many people as possible.

Under the ADA, an impairment needs to be a physiological or mental disorder. Depression, stress, and similar conditions are only sometimes considered impairments under the ADA. Whether depression and stress are considered impairments depends on if they result from a documented mental or physiological disorder or if they result from personal life or job pressures. The impairment must substantially limit at least one major life activity.

The Stigma Of Disability

In the United States, disability carries stigma, especially when the disease is something no one can see . People who are bedridden or housebound from illnesses like migraine, fibromyalgia, depression, or chronic fatigue syndrome are often considered lazy, flaky, or simply less than. If Im honest, though, my reluctance to acknowledge my disability stems more from my own feelings of uselessness than from any external judgment.

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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcing all forms of discrimination in the workplace, including disability discrimination. It also offers guidance and education to employers regarding compliance, including instructions on how to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.


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