Work Life

7 Free Employment Resources to Aid with Working with a Chronic Illness

I’m really excited to share these 7 employment resources with you!

I don’t know about you, but I felt lost or too exhausted to search for resources that could’ve helped me at work.

There were also so many things that I just didn’t know. Especially when it came to what services were available to me.

I stayed in an unhealthy work environment for three years because I didn’t think I had any other options since I couldn’t work a full 40-hour workweek. Ultimately I created my own freelance business to get out of my job, but now I see there were options for me. I just didn’t know about them!

If you’re looking for specific information regarding Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), short term disability, long term disability or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), then please check out my Guide to Disability Accommodations and Benefits at Work.

If you live in the UK, this blog post on Finding Accessible Work with a Chronic Illness appears to be an excellent resource.

Disclaimer: This information is based on my research, and I cannot guarantee that you will qualify for the resources listed below. To learn more, please read my full disclaimer.

Definition of a Disability While Working in the US

Now some of my headers below do say disability instead of chronic illness. And in case you’re unsure, if you’re working or looking for work while living with a chronic illness, you will most likely meet the definition of disability as described below.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Center (EEOC) defines disability in three ways:

  1. “A person may be disabled if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning).
  2. A person may be disabled if he or she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is in remission).
  3. A person may be disabled if he is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment).”

Also, when it comes to employment, the EEOC states, “Not everyone with a medical condition is protected by the law. In order to be protected, a person must be qualified for the job and have a disability as defined by the law.”

1. Resources to Help with Reasonable Accommodations at Work

At the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), you can research reasonable accommodations by disability and/or limitation to see what accommodations can be requested that relate to your symptoms. You can even connect with a JAN consultant over the phone or online.

The ADA National Network is more of a resource for employers. But, I found their Employment ADA Title I and ADA Overview Factsheet to be helpful in better understanding the ADA uses for employment.

2. Disclosing Your Chronic Illness to Your Employer

To disclose or not to disclose. That is the question!

If you work in the US, you do not have to disclose your chronic illness/disability to your employer, and what you communicate is up to you.

It is a personal and sensitive topic, and CareerOneStop offers some great advice and resources on how to go about disclosing your chronic illness/disability to your employer.

Your Human Resources (HR) department can also advise you on this decision. From my personal experience, I was told HR is also not allowed to disclose your chronic illness to your manager.

If you feel nervous or uncomfortable telling your boss alone, then ask HR to sit in on the conversation. HR will ensure that your boss doesn’t ask any inappropriate questions, especially if they are unaware of the laws protecting individuals with disabilities.

3. Reduced Fare on Public Transportation for Individuals with Disabilities

Do you commute via public transportation to and from work? If so, check the reduced fares qualifications on your city’s transit webpage to see if you could qualify for reduced public transportation fare.

I was told that I didn’t need to use a mobility aid every day to apply and receive the benefit.

You and your doctor will most likely need to fill out an application to prove medical necessity, and you may have to submit the paperwork in person.

4. Finding an Attorney related to Employment and Your Chronic Illness

Hopefully, you will never need this resource, but if you do, there are resources to help you find an attorney. Each state is required by federal law to provide a Protection and Advocacy System and Client Assistance Program (P&A/CAP).

The National Disability Rights Network provides links to all state P&A/CAP websites. You will need to contact your state’s P&A/CAP to ask about your legal questions or concerns.

I spoke to my state’s P&A/CAP, and they told me that they help with certain legal matters. If they don’t help with your specific legal question, then they will always try to refer you to someone that could help.

5. Resources to Help Maintain or Find Employment

a) Each state has a Vocational Rehabilitation Agency. These agencies help individuals with disabilities with questions regarding employment and more. You can find the website for your state here.

b) CareerOneStop and each state employment service centers offer a wealth of resources related to finding employment.

Each employment service center offers free help with your resume, interview prep, job searching, and training. Click here to search for a location near you.

Every state is required to have an employment service center so there will be at least one in your state.

6. Top Companies to Work for if You Have a Disability

Through a joint initiative by Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) created the Disability Equality Index (DEI). The annual DEI is designed to identify top companies that promote disability inclusion in the workplace.

“The DEI is designed to promote and advance disability inclusion practices and policies within corporate America that lead to better employment outcomes for and inclusion of people with disabilities, as employees, customers, and suppliers. When businesses include people with disabilities, everybody wins,” said Jill Houghton, President and CEO of Disability:IN, in a recent Disability: IN’s blog post.

The 2019 DEI had the most participation since the pilot program in 2014. Of the 180 companies that participated in the 2019 DEI, 156 companies scored 80% or higher. You can see the list 2019 companies at the end of the DEI report.

You can also see a list of the top companies here. At the time of this writing, the list of the 2018 top companies are listed, but it appears this page will be updated each year after the annual report is published.

This is a great list to have if you’re looking for a job or will be looking for a job in the future.

7. Job Boards for Individuals with Disabilities

Here are some job boards designed specifically for individuals who have a disability. Most of the job postings are not remote jobs, but I did see some remote jobs on some of the sites.

***If you wish to disclose your disability when applying for a US government job, then be sure to read about the Schedule A Hiring Authority for people with disabilities

According to the EEOC, “The Schedule A Hiring Authority for people with disabilities (Schedule A) is an exception to the traditional hiring process. Schedule A streamlines the hiring process for persons with disabilities and, in some instances, hiring officials may select solely from a list of qualified Schedule A applicants.

You can apply using Schedule A if you are a person with an intellectual disability, a severe physical disability, or a psychiatric disability. To be selected you will need to show that you meet the qualifications of the job (with or without reasonable accommodation).”

Recap

Here’s a list of the links mentioned in this post:

Job Boards for Individuals with a Disability:

Did you find the resource you’re looking for in this post? If not, share what you’re looking for below, and I’ll try to point you in the right direction.

 

 

Sara at Managing Chronic

Sara at Managing Chronic

Sara has worked in corporate America for almost 15 years, and she's worked the last eight years with FND. Her FND comes with paroxysmal dystonia, chronic fatigue, brain fog, sensory overload, muscle pain, and more. She is currently a part-time career woman, a mom and a wife.

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