Talking To Your Employer About Interstitial Cystitis

The American Disabilities Act requires employers who have more than 15 employees to make accommodations for people who have illnesses like Interstitial Cystitis.  If you are finding that your IC Disease is affecting your job performance, you may want to speak with your employer about your illness and find out what provisions can be made for you to help you.  According to the ICA

The ADA does not require a written request or formal meeting with your employer, but you do need to speak with your boss or human resources staffer about IC and the kind of accommodations that would help you do a good job despite your IC.

Job Accommodation Network

The US Department of Labor sponsors a free service known as JAN, or the Job Accommodation Network.  JAN offers confidential and expert guidance on disability employment issues and workplace accommodations.  Through JAN, it may be possible for you and your employer to find solutions to make working with your IC easier.  The JAN website has a specific page designated for accommodations for bladder impairments.  You can print it out and share it with your employer.

Tell Your Employer About IC

The ICA says it best:

Telling your employer you have IC is one of the important things you can do to help yourself manage this condition. You may worry about losing your job because of having to run to the bathroom so many times during the day, or missing work because of doctor appointments, or calling in sick because of having a bad IC day. These are legitimate concerns, but if you want to continue to work with IC, telling your boss or your human resources staff about your IC is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Telling your employer about your IC is vital to protecting your job.

Don’t be embarrassed about having IC. It’s a medical condition and people will only understand it and what you are going through if you explain it to them. Once you begin to tell people that you have a bladder impairment, the easier it gets. And that’s what you should tell them you have a problem with your bladder! Many of us often say that people don’t understand, so it’s up to us to help them understand. You don’t have to tell everyone you work with, but telling your boss and human resources is very important.

You may find that telling your employer upfront makes doing your job easier, because their increased awareness about IC can help figure out accommodations that help manage job tasks and IC during the work day. As long as you demonstrate that you can still do your job, and that you just need some flexibility to get it done, most employers will be more than willing to accommodate you. However, if they don’t know why you are constantly away from your desk, asking to leave for unknown appointments, calling in sick, you only make yourself more vulnerable to disciplinary action. If they know what you are dealing with, they can deal with it.

  • You can bring information in for your employer to read about Interstitial Cystitis.  Get a letter from your physician or urologist that explains your pain and symptoms.
  • Let them know you can still do your job, but because of your condition, you are requesting a “reasonable accommodation”. IC is a legitimate disability and if you tell your employer about it and request an accommodation, they are required to respond to your request for an accommodation such as permission to leave your desk to go to the bathroom as often as you need. Maybe you can discuss a flexible work schedule so you can go to doctor appointments without using up all your sick time. Some employers may even be open to allowing you to work at home once or twice a week.
  • Always take notes and document any conversations you have with your employer on the subject.  Keep any emails and other correspondence related to your IC discussions.
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