Thyroid Gland Disorder
Thyroid disorders include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid nodules, thyroiditis thyroid cancer, and goiter. Hyper and hypothyroidism occur with much more frequency and have many symptoms that can affect an individual’s daily life functions. Hyperthyroidism is characterized by the thyroid making more hormones than the body needs. It is most commonly caused by Graves disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system stimulates the thyroid, however it can also be caused by thyroid nodules. The overproduction of hormones begins slowly, and speeds up the metabolism over time resulting in weight loss, regardless of diet, eating more than usual, anxiety, irritability, difficulty sleeping, trembling in the hands and fingers, greater than normal sweating, rapid or irregular heartbeat, greater than normal sensitivity to heat, muscle weakness, increased bowel movements, and in woman, less frequent menstrual cycles or lighter flow. In addition, weak or brittle bone may accompany hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is when the body does not make enough of the thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is most commonly caused by Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid. The symptoms of hypothyroidism tend to develop slowly, often over several years. At the onset of hypothyroidism, an individual may just feel tired or listless, however more and more symptoms develop over time, including weight gain, regardless of diet, increased sensitivity to cold, joint or muscle pain, muscle weakness, fatigue, depression, pale dry skin, puffy face, hoarse voice, constipation, and excessive menstrual bleeding in women.
While many thyroid conditions can be effectively treated with medication, they are often difficult to diagnosis because they share symptoms with so many other diseases and disorders. This usually means that individuals are living with and experiencing the negative symptoms of thyroid disorders for years before diagnosis. Additionally, individuals may still experience symptoms after treatment as their physician needs to find the hormone dosage that properly duplicates a normal thyroid, or the proper medication dosage to block thyroid’s ability to make more hormones. The conditions and associated symptoms described above all have the ability to affect the way an individual with a thyroid disorder performs at work. Symptoms such as fatigue, exhaustion, depression, and anxiety can affect overall productivity, the ability to focus on assigned tasks, and the desire to go to work. Further, the constant existence of these symptoms may cause individuals suffering from a thyroid disorder to miss work, or need to leave work early unexpectedly. A sudden change in an employee’s behavior and what is perceived as “work ethic,” may cause an employer to take adverse employment action. Additionally, after diagnosis, when the employee communicates their condition to an employer, the employer may believe that symptoms that existed pre-diagnosis will persist, or may fear continued illness. These concerns may prompt an employer to engage in discriminatory conduct, including changes in responsibilities, demotion, outright dismissal, failure to promote, or the creation of a hostile work environment to force an employee out.
Persons with thyroid disorders that substantially limit a major life activity are considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are therefore entitled to protection against discrimination. If you live in the metro New York area, including Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan, or on Long Island, in either Nassau or Suffolk County, and have experienced discrimination in the workplace because of your thyroid disorder or related symptoms, you should contact a New York disability attorney.