Are you struggling to maintain your job? Are you being denied restroom access?? Taunted for having to use the restroom? You are certainly not alone but thankfully there is a law that can help! The American’s With Disability Act has helped tens of thousands of disabled people maintain their jobs and careers. Under the ADA employers with more than 15 employees may not discriminate against the disabled in recruitment, hiring, promotions and training. They are also required to provide “reasonable accommodation” for disabled employees who request assistance in performing their jobs provided that it does not cause undue hardship for the company.

Typical Job Accommodations for IC/BPS

A job accommodation is how they can adjust your workplace or schedule to accommodate your needs. Ask yourself: “what do you need that would make it easier for you to work?” You still must be productive and able to perform the essential functions of your job but, perhaps, with some easy changes.  Of course, when you ask for accommodation, this begins a dialogue with your employer and they will have the chance to propose other accommodations. It is a delicate conversation.

Make sure that you have reviewed your companies personnel policies first to understand their position and policies. In all communications, both in person and in writing, you should emphasize your love the job and willingness to do the work. Make sure that you save EVERY communication that you’ve made. After personal conversations, make some notes about the conversation, what was decided and  who was present, date, time, etc. Make copies of all written correspondence and save everything that they give you. Don’t throw anything away.

Remember, everyone faces illness or injuries. It is a rare employee and/or supervisor who does not, at one point in their lives, need some help while recovering. You may or may not receive your specific accommodation but it’s usually worth asking. A compromise may be satisfactory enough.

Restroom access for frequent and/or urgent need to use the restroom  

  • You can request a workstation closer to the restroom – Melanie, a high school teacher with IC, struggled to run to the bathroom in the five minutes between classes. The faculty restroom was on the other side of the school. Under the ADA and with union help, she requested and eventually received a classroom next to the faculty bathroom. The same was true for Bard, a technology worker, who requested a work station nearer the restroom in his office building.
  • You can request more frequent restroom breaks – Teachers have requested that school aids or security staff come to their room once or twice a day to provide a quick five minute break. If you work in a factory or a department store, you can ask for a supervisor to step in for a few minutes while you use the restroom. Melanie receives restroom breaks as needed, not to exceed five minutes once per hour.
  • You can ask if you can work from home – Provided that your presence is not needed on a daily basis, you could request the opportunity to work from home one or two days a week.

Need for medical treatment during work hours

  • Modification of attendance policy and schedule  – John needed physical therapy once a week. He came into work 90 minutes early so that he could leave by 3:30 for his 4PM physical therapy appointment. He still completed all of his necessary work hours for the week.
  • Flexible use of leave time – If you have used all and/or exhausted your sick leave, you could ask for leave using FMLA though you will not be paid for the day.

Commuting to and from work

  • Transfer To Another Office – Alan, a tech worker for a major communications company, struggled with severe pain while driving to work. He asked for, and eventually received, a transfer to an office much closer to his home so that he spent less time in the car. Here’s another variation: Ben, an FBI agent, requested a transfer to another office closer to an IC specialist in another state. Though the FBI review team initially denied his request, with appeal he was allowed to relocate his family to North Carolina so that his wife could receive better care.
  • Most IC patients who commute allowing more time for the commute for restroom breaks. Some may use a TravelJohn in their car so that they don’t have to pull off the freeway and find a restroom.

Sick Leave Options

If you work in a union setting, you might have more flexibility with sick leave.

  • Sick Leave Banks – Some unions maintain a “sick leave” bank where employees may donate their own unused sick leave to a common pool. This is often done by employees who are retiring or relocating. (It is not required of all teachers.) Employees may then contact their union to request consideration for receiving these days.
  • Sick Leave Donations – You may be able to receive donations of sick days directly from other employees. After Melanie exceeded her sick leave last year, several colleagues donated a total of fifteen sick days for her care.
  • Differential Pay – Some workplaces may offer differential pay where, if you have exceeded your sick leave, they will deduct the cost of a substitute from your paycheck.

Workplace Conditions

  • Heat Sensitivity – Melanie is very sensitive to heat due to the medication that she must take. “It all started with an Elavil prescription. If I get too hot, I get dizzy and can faint,” she explained. Unfortunately, her classroom does not have air-conditioning. She requested to use fans which the school was fine with if she bought them. “If they don’t have to pay for it, it’s not an issue,” she explained. She now runs several small fans.
  • Chemical Sensitivity – Melanie explained “Several of my coworkers are extremely sensitive to chemicals and remarkably it’s other teachers that are the problem. They often use strong restroom sprayers which bothers the sensitive teachers.”
  • Fluorescent lights – Migraine sufferers often complain about fluorescent or flickering lights. If you work in a private room, you can ask if you can bring a light into your office and keep the fluorescent lights off.
  • Lifting – Patients with weakened, injured pelvic floor muscles may struggle with lifting, which may cause their symptoms to worsen and/or trigger incontinence. You can ask for assistance with lifting or perhaps a lifting device. A request to transfer to another job is also possible.
  • Chairs & Seating – Does your office chair make your pain worse? You could request a Bladder & Prostate Friendly chair cushion, new chair and/or a sit stand desk so that you can stand as needed to reduce your pain.

Learn The Law

You are your biggest ally. You must walk into any discussion about the ADA with knowledge behind you. Take some time to read about it on the web. We suggest visiting the ADA National Network and the Job Accommodation Network first. Then ask for a copy of your personnel policies to see how your company handles ADA cases. It will show your employer that you are informed, active and determined to keep your job.

ADA Under Attack

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620). While this law is focused primarily on hindering a person with a disability’s right to file a lawsuit for violations of access to buildings with wheelchairs and walkers, it could minimize employer participation in other disability programs including the offering of “reasonable accommodation.”  Disability advocates are outraged. Now under debate in the US Senate, disabled Senator Tammy Duckworth is one of many who oppose the bill. Learn more about her opposition here!