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?
Family Law Attorney
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.
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Administrative Law Lawyer
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.
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Employment / Labor Attorney
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.
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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.