About Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which are transmitted to humans by the bite of infected deer ticks. Lyme disease is associated with a "bull's-eye" rash and/or lesion called erythema migrans. Other nonspecific symptoms include fever, malaise, fatigue, headache, and muscle and joint aches. Later symptoms of Lyme disease can include chronic pain, arthritis, meningitis, tingling and burning sensations in the extremities, Bell's palsy, chronic fatigue, depression, and heart, vision, respiratory, and gastrointestinal-related problems.
Lyme Disease 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 Lyme Disease
People with Lyme disease 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 Lyme disease 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:
A maintenance worker for an apartment complex has been diagnosed with Lyme disease and is experiencing chronic fatigue.
Walking between the apartment buildings greatly drains her energy levels and finds it hard to get through the day. She brings these concerns up to management and they restructure the way work is assigned for the maintenance worker so that she is assigned a certain block of apartments to maintain, rather than the usual method of first come first serve within the entire complex.
An employee with Lyme disease mentions that she experiencing depression symptoms and that they are preventing her from performing at her usual level.
She is still meeting her deadlines, but she has noticed a marked drop in the quality of her work. She discusses the fact that she has an emotional support animal at home that has been trained in how to be non-disruptive when taken out of the home and that she is trained in how to handle the animal. The employer agrees to allow her to bring her emotional support animal into the workplace as an accommodation so long as she maintains control of the animal and that it does not disrupt others who are working.
An applicant discloses that he has Lyme disease and that he needs to be able to manage his stress levels to be able to best manage his disease.
He states that he find situations where he is meeting one on one with a supervisor to be very stressful for him. The employer agrees to allow him to mostly communicate with his supervisor via phone or e-mail, and if an in-person meeting is required, that he will be permitted to have a support person attend the meeting with him.
An employee with Lyme disease mentions that the chronic pain that she experiences makes it difficult for her to type as much as her job requires her to type.
The employer provides her with speech recognition software to allow her to dictate what she would type to the computer which greatly reduced the amount of typing she needed to do each day.
An applicant discloses the fact that he has Lyme disease and because of this experiences migraines.
His migraines are often triggered due to extended exposure to fluorescent lighting. The employer agrees to provide incandescent lighting sources for his workstation and install full spectrum light filters to cover fluorescent lighting fixtures throughout the office to accommodate him.