For people with primary immunodeficiency (PI), employment is about more than just making money and job satisfaction. You need a job that will allow you to perform at a high standard with your disorder and will offer good health insurance benefits. There are many people with PI who have amazing jobs and you can be one of them.
Let’s face the facts, depending upon your type of PI, there might be some jobs that will not be appropriate for you. However, there are many ways to work in a field you are passionate about with some adjustments. For example, there are many people with PI that work in the medical field without being exposed to infectious diseases. Fortunately, the job market has thousands of opportunities that could be a great fit for you. Whether or not you would be a good candidate for employment will be based on a few basic principles:
- You have skills that employers will know how to apply to a variety of workplace settings.
- You have a positive attitude despite having a chronic illness.
- You display initiative and self-motivation.
- You show that you are determined to have a successful career even though you have PI.
The best job plays to your strengths. Remember that you aren’t the only one with limitations—everyone has limitations in one way or another.
During a job search and application period, you do not have to disclose that you have PI unless it affects completing essential job functions. After you are hired, you do not have to disclose this information unless you are requesting an accommodation.
It is critical to consider the type of health insurance benefits offered by the employer. Insurance plans can differ greatly from one to the next even within the same company.
Once you have health insurance, it is against the law for you to be dropped from the plan due to the expense of your treatment. Individuals with pre-existing conditions are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HIPAA ensures that you cannot be denied coverage as long as you have not been uninsured for more than 63 days. Click here for information about HIPAA.
On January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will ensure that all Americans, regardless of a pre-existing condition, are eligible to receive health insurance. Click here for information about the ACA.
Americans with Disabilities Act
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that employers with more than 15 employees must provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. According to the ADA, a disability is:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual.
- A record of such an impairment, or
- Being regarded as having such impairment.
For more information about the ADA, visit www.ada.gov.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Another important government agency that is a valuable resource is The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. For more information, visit www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/index.cfm.
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment in the work environment that enables a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy an equal employment opportunity.
Additional information about reasonable accommodations is available at www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html.
The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices against “qualified individuals with disabilities.” This means that you cannot be eliminated from consideration for employment or from your job because of your PI if you have the skills, experience, education or other requirements for the job you already have or the job you want, and you can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.
For more information about disclosure in the workplace from the United States Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, visit www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/ydw.htm.
Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees working for a company with more than 50 employees a job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, including:
- Caring for the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition
- A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of their job
Additional information about FMLA is available at www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/.