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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?

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Attorney answers 5

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.

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Is Epilepsy considered a psychiatric disability under the ADA? I was not aware of that.



I am not employed and I’ve been classified as disabled and receiving SSI. I am volunteering with this agency at this time but it will turn into an internship in August 2013. At this agency I help with adult clients with a variety of different intellectual disabilities: down syndrome, autism and learning disability. My responsibilities consist of: • Living with 3 of the clients • Teaching them social, living, and academic skills and I do this by being a role model and as mentoring them. My fears of disclosing: • They will change their minds and won’t allow me to be an intern for them in Aug 2013 • They will share the news of my disability to other agencies in the community and also letting my graduate program know about my health. Which will then prevent me from getting other internships with other agencies and even barriers to employment.

Edna Carroll Straus

Edna Carroll Straus


No, I don't think it is a psychiatric disorder, but the situation is that the disability is not visible. Your concern about employment discrimination is exactly what the ADA was designed ti combat. That said, it is not a "magic bullet." In addition, I know the job market these days is not much case for optimism. However, I think if I were advising someone in your situation, *which I cannot as I am not in a position to do so, not having all the medical facts etc.) I would lean toward disclosure. If you are good at your job, which seems quite skilled to me, I would expect that your hiring would not be jeopardized.Also, it would be enormously ironic if an agency dedicated to helping people with disabilities treated you as undesirable because of your one disability. I think you need to talk to your physician, and anyone else you can find with knowledge if your situation and the law, The unfortunate thing is if they don't hire you, your only recourse is to sue, which is terribly stressful and costly. Good luck. There is no easy anwer.


reconsider and let these people know


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.


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:

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. *** 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. ***


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.