Know Your Rights: Epilepsy in the workplace

For people living with epilepsy in Canada, there are laws in place that protect your rights as an individual. These laws vary by province, but here are some of the Nova Scotian policies you should be aware of.

In an interview, can an employer ask me if I have epilepsy?

No! In Nova Scotia, the Human Rights Commission makes it illegal for employers to ask a person about physical or mental disabilities before they are hired

Should I tell my employer if I have epilepsy?

You may choose to tell your employer if you wish or if there are requirements to the job that your epilepsy would prevent you from doing. (Example: Being able to lift 20kg.)

If they find out I have epilepsy, can they refuse to hire me?

No! The only reason an employer could choose not to hire an individual with epilepsy would be if your epilepsy would be a danger to you or others and the risk cannot be mitigated through accommodation. (Example: Operating heavy machinery.)

Can I be fired if my employer asks me to do something new and because of my epilepsy, I cannot?

Your employer has to abide by their duty to accommodate. This means that if your employer asks you to work a different shift and you cannot due to your epilepsy they have an obligation to switch your shift with another employee.

Other examples of Duty to Accommodate include:

  • Your employed needs you to carry heavy objects up the stairs but you are incapable of doing so, another employee could do it for you, if you take on some of their responsibilities.
  • If your epilepsy causes you to fall to the floor during a seizure, your employer would be required to take basic safety precautions, like installing padding on sharp corners.

Employers are only obligated to abide by the Duty to Accommodate as long as it does not impose undue hardship upon them. This means that your employer is not obligated to inflict financial hardship upon themselves or put any one else at risk or in danger. There is no set of guidelines to govern undue hardship and it varies by organization.

What do I do if I feel like I am being discriminated against by my employer or my co-workers?

Sometimes it can be as simple as speaking with the person and resolving your differences individually or with the help of someone else in the organization. If this fails to make a difference you can call the Human Rights Commission at this number for advice: 902-424-4111 or toll-free 1-877-269-7699.

Remember, your rights are important and your employers and co-workers have to respect them. If you have any additional questions about epilepsy in the workplace, call EANS at (902) 429-2633 or email us at info@epilepsyns.org.

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