About Gastrointestinal Disorders
Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders affect millions of people of all ages - men, women, and children. Examples of GI disorders include Crohn's disease, gastroparesis, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon, and diverticulitis. Symptoms of GI disorders range from very mild to debilitating. Just as symptoms may vary from person to person, so may the need for job accommodation.
Gastrointestinal Disorders and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having 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 Gastrointestinal Disorders
People with gastrointestinal disorders 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 gastrointestinal disorders 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:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- 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?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Situations and Solutions:
An employee seems to have trouble interacting with members of the public.
The employee mentions that performing this job duty causes him a lot of stress, and this stress makes his ulcerative colitis much more likely to flare up. The employer reviews the individual’s job duties and finds that interacting with the public is a marginal function of the individual’s job. The employer agrees to restructure the individual’s job as an accommodation so that this job duty will be reallocated to other employees, and they discuss other job duties that they can give him that would not cause this level of stress to keep the work load balanced.
An employee with fecal incontinence mentions that they have trouble making it to the restroom in time and often has accidents due to this.
The employer moves the employee’s workstation as an accommodation so that the employee is as close as possible to a restroom.
During the holiday season an employer hosts an employee appreciation luncheon.
An employee with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and obesity was on a restrictive diet, which included avoiding foods and drinks that triggered severe symptoms. In addition to the food typically provided for the event, the employer agreed to work with the catering company to develop additional dishes that the employee would be able to eat. This accommodation benefited others with similar sensitivities to food.
An applicant, while being toured around the workplace, notices that the employer has a cafeteria that provides employees with one meal during their meal breaks per day as a benefit of employment. The
The applicant mentions that she has Celiac’s disease, and therefore would need gluten-free options in order to enjoy this benefit of employment. The employer agrees to modify the menu by adding some gluten-free options as an accommodation.
A claims processor with a gastrointestinal disorder was having flare ups of his condition, which resulted in a strong odor that was affecting coworkers.
He asked to work from home until he could get his condition under control. His employer granted his request.
A supervisor has noticed that one of his employees consistently takes a much longer time in the restroom and this seems to be negatively impacting his performance.
When the supervisor approaches the employee regarding this, the employee discloses that he has irritable bowel syndrome and because of this disability needs to take more time to use the restroom. The employer reviews the situation and allows for a modification to the employee’s schedule as an accommodation so that the employee makes up the time that he missed due to his longer restroom breaks by extending his shift’s end time each day as needed.
A computer operator was experiencing weight loss and gastrointestinal limitations as a result of having HIV.
She was provided with an ergonomic chair with extra padding and began to change seating positions often. This prevented her from getting sores from sitting in one position for prolonged periods of time. Employee’s workstation was also moved closer to a restroom to provide her better access. Total cost to move employee to another workstation was virtually nothing.
After receiving complaints from coworkers about an employee passing very smelly gas, the employer discussed the problem with the employee.
The employee said he was aware of the problem, but did not know it was that bad. He indicated that he has a gastrointestinal disorder that had flared up recently. The employer agreed to allow the employee to telework until the employee’s condition was under control again.