Tim Nourse recounts the story of an acquaintance living with a seizure disorder who is a highly-valued employee of a nationwide corporation. Despite the fact this individual’s seizures are fully under control and her employer has an excellent track record of accommodating people with all disabilities, she has never disclosed her condition.
Nourse, an employment consultant, says this story is typical of many people living with a seizure disorder. People with epilepsy face employment barriers, however, the challenge is typically not finding work, it’s maintaining a job.
“A lot of people, because they have had bad experiences in the past with epilepsy in the workplace or with disclosure, choose not to disclose,” Nourse tells Voices of Epilepsy. “Usually they’re OK, but when they have that first seizure, often employers find ways to let them go.”
Like any disability, epilepsy is covered by provincial and federal rights legislation. It’s illegal to discriminate against people with a seizure disorder on the basis of their disability. But it happens anyway, says Nourse.
This, he says, is largely because epilepsy is an “invisible disability.”
“For somebody who has, let’s say, a spinal-cord injury, the employer knows what to expect; here’s somebody that needs a modified desk or a power-door opener,” Nourse says. “With epilepsy, it’s so unpredictable and there is so much myth and stigma associated with it that, with legislation or not, (discrimination happens).”
People with epilepsy who have been discriminated against because of their disability sometimes do stand up for their rights but often they don’t. And there’s a reason for this. Stress is a major trigger for epilepsy, and contesting a wrongful dismissal claim can be an extremely stressful process, hence, many people prefer to simply move on and find a new job.
Fortunately, help is available for people through their local epilepsy resource centre, Nourse says.
Epilepsy Toronto, for instance has employment specialists. All epilepsy agencies can redirect people looking for help with employment issues.
Having someone on their side to help file a claim can alleviate a lot of the stress for people with a seizure disorder that comes with the process, he adds.
For more information about what resources are available for people with seizure disorders, contact Epilepsy Ontario at 905-474-9696, or toll-free at 1-800-463-1119.
— More to come
Writer: Deron Hamel
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