Hiring Qualified Workers with Epilepsy

Resources for Hiring Qualified Workers with Epilepsy

Contributor: Kevin Jordan, MPA

Where do businesses market employment opportunities or recruit qualified persons?

A. Epilepsy Foundation    

Employers are encouraged to publicize their job openings with the affiliates of the Epilepsy Foundation serving their area. Some affiliates will post these openings on their websites and/or can direct qualified candidates to employers. Contact information for all affiliates around the country can be obtained from: www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutus/AffiliateLookup.cfm.

B. Employment Assistance Referral Network  

1-866-327-6669 (EARN-NOW)

C. HirePotential  

D. National Business and Disability Council  

E. Job Access   

F. RecruitAbility   

G. State Vocational Rehabilitation Offices  

H. One-Stop Career Centers 

I. Indeed

J. Ticket-To-Work Program

Contact MAXIMUS, Inc. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has contracted with MAXIMUS, Inc. to serve as the Operations Support Manager for the Ticket-T0-Work Program. Visit their web page at www.yourtickettowork.com, or by calling MAXIMUS, Inc. at their toll-free numbers, 1-866-968-7842 (1-866-YOURTICKET) or 1-866-833-2967 TTY (1-866-TDD 2 WORK).

Who can we call about Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) resources?

A. The following website lists several federal agencies and other organizations that provide information about the ADA: www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/agency.htm

B.  Contact the Epilepsy Foundation’s Jeanne A. Carpenter Epilepsy Legal Defense Fund for guidance on ADA issues.  Go to:  www.epilepsylegal.org (see Resources page) or call 1.800.332.1000.

Who can provide technical assistance?

A. The Epilepsy Foundation, through its affiliate network and partnership with the American Epilepsy Society Employment Task Force, has an employer awareness program educating and discussing epilepsy and employment issues with employers.

Contact the Foundation’s Programs & Research Department at 301.459.3700 or at 1.800.332.1000.

Contact the Foundation’s Legal Defense Fund (see above) for legal rights issues.

B. There are ten regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTAC) created by The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to provide employers with the necessary information, training and technical assistance regarding the ADA and working with employees living with a disability. Such assistance ranges from material dissemination to education and training for employers. If the individual is a client of the State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, an "assistive technology" specialist and other specialists can be funded by the agency.

Visit www.worksupport.com for more DBTAC details according to your region of the country (enter "accommodation considerations" into their search function), or call 1-800-949-4232 for more details.

What really needs to be reviewed in considering an employee with epilepsy for a job opportunity?

For any employment position, basic job duties exist and such duties are expected to be performed by a qualified employee with or without reasonable accommodation.

Essential functions are the basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation. Employers should carefully examine each job to determine which functions or tasks are essential to performance. (This is particularly important before taking an employment action such as recruiting, advertising, hiring, promoting or firing.)

Factors to determine if a function is essential include:

  • whether the reason the position exists is to perform that function
  • the number of other employees available to perform the function or among whom the performance of the function can be distributed, and
  • the degree of expertise or skill required to perform the function.

Safety Issues

People with epilepsy are successfully employed in a variety of jobs that might be considered high-risk: police officers, firefighters, welders, butchers, construction workers, etc. Epilepsy is a highly variable disorder and it is difficult to generalize about safety issues. The ADA prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities to people with epilepsy and other disabilities based on safety concerns, unless such individuals are shown to present a "direct threat"; that is, a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation. The determination that an individual poses a "direct threat" is to be made on a case-by-case assessment of the individual’s present ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job. The employer must identify the specific risk posed by the individual. The employer’s assessment is to be based on a reasonable medical judgment that relies on the most current medical knowledge and/or the best objective evidence. In the case of individuals with epilepsy, the employer must give significant weight to the opinion of the treating physician, preferably a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy. Individual evaluations should take into account the type of job, the required tasks, the presence of seizure precipitating factors (e.g., required night shift which may result in sleep disruption), the degree of seizure control, the type(s) of seizures, whether the person has an aura (warning), any side effects of antiepilepsy medication, and any accommodations which would help the person do the job.

What happens if an employee’s job performance declines? Do I have the right to request medical information?

First, your primary focus is the performance issue(s). Take the time to be objective and discover remedies for the identified performance issues.

Second, if you notice an employee’s job performance continuously declining over time due to a medical condition and strongly believe that the medical condition may cause danger to work, or hurt the employee’s job performance, you may ask for medical information. Remember, the basis of your inquiry should be based on objective facts. If the employer and employee cannot arrive at a reasonable accommodation, it is important to seek technical assistance.

More information is provided at www.eeoc.gov/facts/fs-ada.html

As an employer, should I excuse an employee’s poor performance or misconduct because of his/her disability including epilepsy?

The main objective is to fairly treat the employee as you would any other employee who performs poorly or violates any of your conduct regulations. Being objective and treating the employee fairly will not violate the ADA.

What are the responsibilities of an employer under the ADA?

The following website provides clear and detailed information about an employer’s responsibility under the ADA: eeoc.gov/facts/ada17.html.

The content of the published document reviews several topics ranging from who is covered under the act and who is protected through reasonable accommodations and asking about a disability.

What employer benefits exist for hiring a person living with a disability?

There are federal tax incentives for employers who hire persons living with a disability. Detailed information may be found at www.ada.gov/archive/taxpack.pdf and at www.employmentincentives.com/index.htm Some of the incentives include:

Work Opportunity Tax Credit: A tax deduction of 35% of the first $6,000 paid to the employee with a disability in a given year is granted to the employer. The qualified worker with a disability is receiving vocational rehabilitation services from a state vocational rehabilitation agency or the Veterans Administration. The program works by reducing an employer’s federal income tax liability. For more detailed information visit www.doleta.gov/business/incentives/opptax/

Disabled Tax Credit: The tax credit benefits small businesses up to $10,250 for a taxable year in "eligible access expenditures" such as the removal of architectural and transportation barriers. To be eligible, a small business must have either $1 million or less in gross income for the preceding year, or 30 or fewer full-time employees during the preceding year.

Architectural Transportation Barrier Removal Deduction: Larger businesses can deduct up to $15,000 per year in eligible architectural and transportation barrier removals. Such expenses as improving the accessibility of a facility or of transportation can be eligible as a deductible if implemented for persons living with a disability. Note:  Smaller businesses can also take this deduction for funds expended over the initial $10,250 tax credit benefit.

Employer Network: Participating in an Employment Network (EN) can earn an employer up to $17,000 for each qualified person maintaining work and receiving Social Security funding who is holding a "Ticket To Work." Ticket To Work is a program designed to assist employers in reaching an untapped pool of qualified persons who have the education, skills and/or interest to return to work. This program provides a bridge in the transition to work return for individuals receiving Social Security subsidy. Ticket To Work information can be found at www.yourtickettowork.com/

On-the-job training subsidy: If a business hires a qualified worker with a disability who requires training in order to perform a job proficiently, a significant portion may be paid by a state vocational rehabilitation agency if he/she is a client. This type of arrangement can often be negotiated with the other vocational rehabilitation service provider. Note: Based upon federal stimulus and other funding, monies may be available to support internships within businesses, etc. - contact your local state vocational rehabiitation agency.

Other Employer Resources

Information about Epilepsy and Employment  www.jan.wvu.edu/media/Epilepsy.html

U.S. Department of Labor    www.dol.gov/dol/audience/aud-employers.htm

Employment Checklist For Hiring People With Disabilities   www.dol.gov/odep/archives/ek96/chcklist.htm

The Work Site    www.ssa.gov/work/

Disability Employment Guide   www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/products/employmentguide

Personal Assistance Services In TheWorkplace   www.dol.gov/odep/topics/PersonalAssistanceServices.htm