Discussing Your Health Needs
With Your Employer
Having a career you enjoy can be a tremendously fulfilling part of life. Maybe there’s always been a dream job you’ve been passionate about, or perhaps working is just a way to pay the bills. But regardless of the path you pursue, having access to a work environment that is sustainable for your health and wellbeing as you manage your cystic fibrosis (CF) is essential!
It’s so important that, as an individual, you know what your boundaries and your limitations might be. If you know yourself well, you can bring your best self to work, and then ask for the help and the assistance and the guidance that you need.”
–Susan, HR Expert
Asking for what you need
CF is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which means that you have the right to ask your manager for reasonable accommodations to help you work comfortably and safely. That could look a little different depending on the type of job you have or the company you work for, but might include flexibility around where you work, the hours you work, or the amount of time you can take off for medical care. Use this letter template to give your employer some background about CF and to request specific accommodations.
It’s important to find the right balance for you so that you’re able to prioritize your health while accomplishing your career goals. Asking for changes to your work arrangement doesn’t make you less capable. It enables you to do your work more effectively.
Navigating how much to share
There is no one right way to talk about your CF. You might decide you want to get it out of the way with all your coworkers up front or that nobody at your job ever needs to know. Whatever you choose to share about yourself is totally fine.
You are not required to disclose anything about your health to an employer even if you are looking to access accommodations, but getting ahead of these conversations may make it easier to avoid uncomfortable or unsafe situations and can allow you to express urgent needs more quickly since your employer already has context.
Finding who to talk to
Every workplace is different. Depending on your comfort level, there are a few places you may be able to look to for support at your organization.
Managers: If you are asking for accommodations, it can be helpful for your manager(s) to understand how CF impacts you and to set expectations around any health-related conflicts or situations you may need to avoid in the workplace.
Coworkers: CF does not define you. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a big part of your day-to-day life. Having coworkers in your corner who you can lean on for support can help bridge the gap between work life and home life and provide a sense of community.
Human Resources representative: If you’re not comfortable talking to your manager or coworkers, or your needs are not being respected, the HR (or Human Resources) department can serve as a liaison between you and your employer.
Social worker: You should always feel like you’re able to prioritize your health before your job. If you and your care team decide that the work you’re doing is impacting your ability to effectively manage your CF, it may be time to weigh out your options.
CF caregivers may need accommodations too.
While caregivers are not covered under ADA, they do still have rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If your child has significant needs due to their CF, you and your social worker can work together to decide what makes the most sense for your situation.