Migraine Headache

Employee Rights For Migraine Sufferers


Making things doubly tough is the perception that people who complain of migraines are often seen as slackers; a perception reinforced when a migraine sufferer whose headaches are triggered by light is seen wearing sunglasses indoors; or when a migraine sufferer seems to have to leave work early a few times a month.

With all those migraine sufferers not being able to get to work or having to leave early, along with all the corresponding medical costs associated with migraine suffering at work, migraine is estimated to costs businesses billions each year. In addition, many migraine sufferers themselves suffer financially. One study found that the unemployment rate in people with severe migraine is 10% to 20%, far higher than the general population. The good news is that many employers are beginning to accommodate migraine sufferers.

The first thing you must do if you suffer migraines at work is not hide it. Let your boss or supervisors know exactly what happens when you suffer a headache, how long they last, etc. Also let your co-workers know. You’ll probably find out that one of them is a migraine sufferer as well. If you know that your Migraines will affect your work at times or may cause you to call in sick, don’t cover it up, keep it out in the open. If you try to hide what’s going on, people automatically jump to conclusions and assume the very worst, especially if you’re taking migraine medication. The last thing you want is for people to assume you’re taking drugs at work. It is better to let your boss and co-workers know that you have migraines, but be sure to let them know in a way that won’t leave them thinking you’re always going to be missing work.

There are several workplace accommodations that must be considered in connection to employees with migraines, including but not limited to:

Reducing visual and auditory distractions. Bright lights and other high intensity visual stimuli are a common trigger for migraine headaches. Indeed, some migraine patients appear to possess a lower than normal threshold for light-induced pain. Sunlight, television, and flashing lights all have been reported to precipitate migraine headaches.

Using partitions to block distractions.

Move employee's work area to a more quiet area.

Use environmental sound machines (white noise machines) to mask any noise/sounds in the environment.

Use computer glare guards.

Replace fluorescent lighting with full spectrum lighting.

Modify attendance policy or provide flexible schedule options to allow the worker to adjust to daily changes.

Grant sick/vacation leave without penalty to individual's performance evaluation.

Allow work from home as an option when the job would enable this to be a successful option.

Install proper ventilation system in the work environment and, if appropriate, use air purification devices.

Questions to Consider in the Job Accommodation Process

Issues Related to the Individual

1. What are the employee’s specific duties?

2. What duties present problems in performing?

3. Are there any specific recurring issues such as missing work, missing deadlines or problems related with concentrating?

4. How can the above issues be corrected?

Issues Related to the Worksite

1. What is the physical layout of the workplace?

2. What specific equipment is utilized in the work setting?

3. What kind of lighting is used and what is the noise level in the workplace?

4. Does the employee's workplace have visual or/& auditory distractions?

5. How can the physical environment of the workplace be changed so that the worker will be able to perform her job duties?

6. Can the job duties be restructured so that the worker can perform the duties that are easier for him/her?

7. Are there any products that could assist the employee in performing his job?