Migraine headaches can vary in both severity and length, some lasting for hours, and some for days. Additionally, migraines are often accompanied by nausea and sometimes vomiting. Chronic migraine, where an individual experiences more than 15 headache days in a month, is significantly more debilitating than episodic migraine. Often individuals who suffer from migraines also experience an aura, which occurs prior to the onset of a migraine and acts as a warning. Auras most commonly present visually, with spots in vision, flashes of light, and vision loss, but can also happens in other parts of the body, such as pins and needles in the arms and legs. The cause of migraines is unknown, but there are commonly known triggers, including food, certain food additives, drinks (especially alcohol), and sensory stimuli, such as light, sound, and smell.
Migraines, both episodic and chronic, can impair an individual’s daily life functions, and negatively affect a person’s personal and professional life. In particular, migraines can have a detrimental effect on one’s ability to perform job tasks, show up to work or complete a full day. There are various symptoms associated with migraine, such as intolerance to light and sound, the inability to think clearly or focus, and in some cases impaired vision extending beyond the aura, that make it difficult to function normally. Those suffering with migraines often encounter unsympathetic supervisors who do not understand that a migraine headache is very different from a regular headache, and therefore believes an employee should continue working regardless of the onset of an unmanageable migraine. Because of this insensitivity, individuals with migraines sometimes suffer discrimination in the workplace. There are many ways that an employer can discriminate, including outright dismissal, changes in responsibilities or position, demotion, or continually failing to promote. In some instances, rather than make these affirmative changes, employers choose to create a hostile work environment in order to push employees out by forcing them to quit.
Even if an employer does not take such [drastic] action, such as firing or causing the inability to advance, some employers refuse to provide reasonable accommodations for those suffering from migraines. There are many outside stimuli that can be present in a workplace that can trigger a migraine headache, including certain lights, buzzing and other sounds, and smells. Without these triggers, an individual may be able to get through an entire workday without getting a headache, or without making a dulled headache unmanageable. Many of these triggers that exist at work can be easily removed or maneuvered around without any extreme measures when an employee has supervisor support. However, regardless of supervisor support, if a migraine becomes an impairment and an employee requests reasonable accommodations, his or her employer is required to provide them.
Persons on Long Island, in either Nassau or Suffolk County, suffering from migraine headaches have been considered disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and are protected against discrimination. If an individual with migraines has been denied reasonable accommodations at work or has experienced and other form of discrimination in the workplace, they should contact a New York disability discrimination lawyer.