In 2014, the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) and the International Bureau for Epilepsy revised the definition of “epilepsy” to help society obtain a more precise understanding of what the disease is and what conditions must be met for a person to qualify as having epilepsy. This revision, which came over one hundred years after scientists “noticed the electric changes in the brain during experimentally induced seizures, associating epileptic attacks with abnormal electric discharges” shows that even today, many people fail to recognize what epilepsy is and how it affects daily life for those who have it.
In this two-part series, the Orlando construction lawyers at Cotney Construction Law will discuss epilepsy and how it relates to workers in the construction industry. As an employer, it’s imperative that you understand the rights of workers with epilepsy under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and take the proper actions to support these workers. For assistance with ADA compliance on your project site, consult an Orlando construction lawyer.
According to the ILAE, a person has epilepsy if they:
- Experience two or more unprovoked (or reflex) seizures more than 24 hours apart.
- Experience one unprovoked (or reflex) seizure and have a 60 percent recurrence risk after two unprovoked seizures over the following decade.
- Are diagnosed with epilepsy syndrome.
Therefore, having a seizure and having epilepsy are drastically different. The ILAE defines an epilpetic seizure as “a transient occurrence of signs and/or symptoms due to abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain.” A person with epilepsy suffers from recurrent unprovoked seizures, whereas a person who experiences a seizure may not experience another seizure ever again. The nature of this disease can create a lot of hesitancy for contractors, who might fear that a sudden, unprovoked seizure will lead to an accident on the project site with little to no warning.
Working with Epilepsy
Although epilepsy can hinder an employee’s work performance on the project site, it doesn’t mean they should be excluded from working in their field. Many people with this disease are employed in similarly high-risk occupations, including:
- Police Officer
Epilepsy is a “highly variable disorder,” which makes it challenging to pinpoint its precise effect on an employee’s work performance. Many people with epilepsy are licensed to drive and can perform physical activities at a high level. Under the ADA, employers are barred from excluding employees for safety reasons unless specific and timely medical documentation indicates that the person in question poses a “direct threat” to the health and safety of themselves or other workers.
Now that we have developed a better understanding of epilepsy, we will outline tips for dealing with this disease and maintaining compliance with federal laws in part two.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.