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. (For example – being able to lift 20 kg.)

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 cause a danger to you or others and the risk cannot be mitigated through accommodation. (For example – operating heavy machinery.)

Can I be fired if my employer asks me to do something new, but due to my epilepsy I cannot?

Your employer has to abide by their duty to accommodate. For example, 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 employer needs you to carry heavy objects up the stairs – however due to your epilepsy, you are incapable of doing so. In this case another employee can do it for you, as long as you are able to take on some of your coworkers responsibilities.
  • If your epilepsy causes you to fall to the floor during a seizure, your employer would be required to take basic safety precautions such as 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.

https://humanrights.novascotia.ca/content/employers#duty-to-accommodate

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 ed@epilepsyns.org.

Stay tuned; we will have information for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

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