Lupus and Worklife: can I still work after my diagnosis?

Lupus and Worklife: can I still work after my diagnosis?

No matter the area of expertise, our achievements and accomplishments in the workplace contribute to our self-image and identity. It’s not surprising that people with lupus, especially soon after being diagnosed, often wonder if their illness will affect their ability to contribute in the workplace. I did that myself.


Many people with lupus can continue to work, although they may need to make changes in their work environment. Flexible work hours, job-sharing, and telecommuting may help you to keep working. It may be helpful to begin to make such arrangements soon after you have been diagnosed with lupus.


If you work in an office setting, changes may include:

1 modifying your workstation to relieve physical stress factors, such as requesting a chair with good lumbar support;

2 placing light shields over fluorescent bulbs and anti-glare filters on computer screens;

3 using ergonomic keyboards and desk chairs;

4 having a couch available for periods of rest;

5 standing on a special padded floor mat, if you must be on your feet for long periods;

6 scheduled rest periods or work from home days;


If you work in outdoor occupations, changes may include:

1 taking on tasks that are less physically demanding;

2 requesting functions that take place in the shade;

3 having more frequent rest periods;

4 avoiding the sun at midday.


Understandably, you might not want to make your illness a matter of general knowledge among colleagues. You may be concerned that telling your employer about a lupus diagnosis might call into question your effectiveness in your job or might somehow decrease your value as an employee. Legally, you are not required to disclose your health condition to your employer.


But the law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to enable a disabled employee to perform his or her job (modifications to work stations, assistive equipment, flexible work schedules, changes in job location, etc.). However, precisely what is “reasonable” can be a matter of interpretation, and sometimes a dispute can arise between employee and employer. The most important thing to know is that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions apply only if the employer has been made aware of the employee’s disability.


Anyway, sometimes the physical and mental demands of your job may become too overwhelming, on top of the many physical and emotional changes that lupus can cause. You might benefit from changing to another job or switching to part-time hours at your current job.


The important thing is to put your health and well-being first. Talk to your doctor before making any decision – each case is different.

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