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Accommodation and Compliance: Fibromyalgia

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About Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a complex, chronic condition that causes widespread pain and severe fatigue. Fibromyalgia is often considered a syndrome because it is a set of signs and symptoms that occur together, affecting nerves, muscles and their attachments to bones. It is not a true form of arthritis and does not cause deformities of the joints. It is, however, a form of soft tissue or muscular rheumatism. Deep muscular pain is the most common symptom of fibromyalgia. Usually starting at the neck and shoulders and spreading to other parts of the body over time, the pain varies according to the time of day, weather, sleep patterns, and stress level.

People with fibromyalgia experience extreme tenderness when pressure is applied to the knees, thighs, hips, elbows, and neck. People with fibromyalgia are also likely to have sleep disorders; severe changes in mood and thinking, including depression and chronic anxiety; headaches; impaired memory; irritable bowel syndrome; multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome; restless legs; skin and temperature sensitivity; and tingling similar to the symptoms of cumulative trauma disorders.

JAN's Accommodation Solutions: Executive Functioning Deficits is a publication detailing accommodations for individuals with limitations related to executive functioning. These ideas may be helpful in determining accommodations. 

Fibromyalgia and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA does not contain a definitive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such 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 (ADAAA).

Accommodating Employees with Fibromyalgia

People with fibromyalgia may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with fibromyalgia will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  6. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

The following situations and solutions are real-life examples of accommodations that were made by JAN customers. Because accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, these examples may not be effective for every workplace but give you an idea about the types of accommodations that are possible.

Events Regarding Fibromyalgia