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Chronic Pain and Its Role in Your Career

As those who suffer from chronic pain are aware, chronic pain has a way of inserting itself into nearly every aspect of your life. From social relationships to athletics, it seems that no matter what you try to do, your chronic pain will affect you in some way. Unfortunately, matters of your career are no different.

There are many different things that those who are suffering from chronic pain should know with regard to their condition and its relationship to the workplace.

Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a law that protects Americans from employment discrimination due to a disability. All employers who have fifteen employees or more are required to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Within the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability is defined as a condition that results in substantial impairment of a major life activity. “Major life activities” are things that we do on a daily basis that are a major part of our lives, such as hearing, seeing, eating, using the restroom, etc.

The Americans with Disability Act dictates:
You cannot be fired on the basis of a disability
Your employer must make reasonable accommodations to assist you in perform ingyour job despite your disability

Although accommodation to assist you in performing your tasks n order to be protected under the Americans with Disabilities act, you must be able to perform the essential functions of your job without accommodation. “Essential functions” are defined as the aspects of the job that are listed as the key tasks to be performed under the job in the job’s description. So, if you are blind you may not be eligible to perform a job as a photographer, however you could act in a non-visual role at a photography company. An accommodation might mean adding braille or a speaking function to the keyboard of your computer.

Understanding what the ADA Does NOT Protect You From
The Americans with Disabilities Act does dictate that you must be able to perform the essential functions of your job with or without accommodation. If one of those functions is, for example, to be at the office at a certain time every day, missing that deadline or not being present due to your disability is not allowed. Although many people misinterpret the ADA to mean that they are completely protected from termination due to any aspect of their disability, this is not the case. You must be able to perform the essential duties of your job.

Knowing What to Divulge, and When
For someone who suffers from chronic pain, the pain itself can be a major issue in his or her day to day life. Because of this, many feel as though they are obligated to divulge their condition right away - even at a job interview. However, many experts say that unless you absolutely have to, you should shy away from telling an employer about chronic pain, particularly in an interview. When you’re at a job interview, you don’t want to give a potential employer any reason to think that you might be the completely dependable worker that you are.

Instances when you do need to inform your employer of your condition are when you are:
Seeking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act
Seeking accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act

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