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I was told I have to disclose my Epilepsy for my internship by my case manager or I would be held liable if I had a seizure.

Fresno, CA |

She's with the department with rehabilitation who provides services to people with disabilities. So I told her how I am so worried that my graduate program and internship will find out about my epilepsy. My doctor wants to to do a EEG home monitor but I refused because I don't want to let my school and internship to see me wrapped up in all those wires. I started to cry in front of her bc of the pressure I have to live with when hiding my epilepsy. She then has the nerves to tell me that I should reconsider and let these people know bc if I were to have a seizure and those people in some way get affected or hurt then I would be liable for it. Is this true? I thought under the ADA I didn't have to disclose I had Epilepsy. Would I be held liable if I had a seizure and hurt someone?

Attorney Answers 5


  1. Best answer

    Your question is a difficult one to answer. First of all, I can't tell if you are employed, or expect to be hired after the internship, or if the internship is current.

    Second the ADA can't protect you unless you disclose your disability. (Also, what do you fear would happen if you did let "these people" know you have epilepsy?)

    Last, I cant tell what "liability" you might have as I don't know what type of work this is. It would be foolish to work at a job where you might injure yourself or others should you have a seizure, so one assumes this is not such a job.

    There is not much chance that "liability" would be the issue in disclosure--the real risk is that you would not be hired, and might have to invoke the ADA. (See link below.)

    Call a local employment lawyer. I don't think your rehab counselor is the right source fr legal advice.

    Ms. Straus (aka Carroll) may be reached at 800-400-8978 during regular business hours, Pacific Time, or anytime by email at: ECSEsquire@AOL.com. All of Ms. Straus’ responses to questions posted on Avvo are intended as helpful information based upon the facts stated in the question, and are not to be relied upon as a final legal opinion. It may not be what you wished to hear, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Ms. Straus is licensed to practice law in California. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue, you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state, and retain him or her. Me Straus provides “unbundled” services if you need specific assistance with a specific issue.


  2. You are going to reside with disabled people and not let them know in advance that you have some health limitations, and one of yours is a neurological condition that can occasionally cause you to have a seizure? And you aren't going to teach them what to do if it happens while you are with one or more of them? and what they should think? And do for you? And who to call? And what to say? Does that sound the least bit defensible to you?

    Legal issues aside for one moment, if you cannot find the courage to deal straight-forwardly with the prospect of your illness being visible to these impaired persons who will be relying on you for guidance, then you need to find a different position in a different field.

    The ADA and other applicable State laws, if applied by competent and knowledgeable analysts, will likely cause the same conclusion. Your interests are important, but yours are not the only interests that merit respect and protection here. Two pieces of advice: (1) talk to an experienced and skilled attorney and (2) let your conscience be your guide.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.


  3. From a legal standpoint, you do NOT have to disclose your epilepsy to anyone at any time, other than if your job/internship/whatever involves a potential safety risk to yourself or others, or if you seek reasonable accommodation. You have a right to privacy; however, that right does not trump safety concerns. To get a better understanding of the employer's rights and your rights, please look at my Avvo guide on medical inquiries and examinations, and medical confidentiality under the ADA: http://www.avvo.com/pages/show?category_id=6&permalink=medical-information-and-the-ada--inquiries-and-confidentiality.

    On the practical side, you really do have reason to pay attention to any potential safety risk. That said, a desk job and many other jobs do not involve a safety risk.

    I cannot think of any circumstances where you would be liable for harming others due to your epilepsy, but I am not a personal injury attorney. There may be some liability if you conceal a strong risk factor, but that would be inconsistent with nearly everything I know about employment law.

    It would be helpful for you to take your concerns to someone, perhaps an attorney or the Epilepsy Society (a great organization!), with whom you can be open and candid about the potential work and your medical status.

    twitter.com/MikaSpencer *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***


  4. I agree with the other attorneys that you should strongly consider letting your employer or graduate program at least know of any restrictions or limitations you might have because of your epilepsy. Although you might not be required legally to disclose that you have epilepsy, you will not be able to invoke any of your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the California Fair Employment and Housing Act if your employer or school does not know of your restrictions and limitations.

    Although you might not be liable if you had a seizure, the company could be liable if you hurt someone during a seizure, such as with machinery or driving. Moreover, if no one knows that you have epilepsy, no one would be able to help you if you suffered a seizure at work/school.

    It is unlawful for your employer to discriminate or retaliate against you (treat you worse than other employees) because you have an illness or disability. You should contact an experienced disability discrimination lawyer to get more information.

    Answering your inquiry does not establish an attorney-client relationship. California law requires that the potential client and the attorney enter into a written retainer agreement. Moreover, additional or different facts may affect or change the general legal response offered. Therefore, the attorney makes no warranty of the accuracy or applicability of any of the information that he may provide in this response.

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