How to Tell Your Employer About Your RA

Arm yourself with the right information before you discuss your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with your boss.

Stacey Feintuch
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So you just found out you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and the time has come to share the news. It’s hard enough to tell your family and friends, never mind your boss.

The fact is, you’re not legally required to disclose your RA to your employer. But, it’s always a good idea for your employer or a coworker to know you have RA—a physically demanding job involving lifting, carrying or constant standing can be tough on the body when you have RA. So you may need certain modifications.

Now that you knowthe decision is totally yours, what will you do? Well, you have a few good reasons to open up about your RA. By informing your boss, you’ll be entitled to certain legal rights, as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. To find out more about your rights at work, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s site.

Decided to tell? Here are a few tips for making the conversation easier:

Before you chat
Talk with your rheumatologist and others on your healthcare team about working with RA. Find out how people feel while they’re getting the same kind of treatment you’re going through. Ask what work schedule they suggest and what accommodations you should ask for.

Determine your requests
Then, decide for yourself what you want your employer to do for you. You’ll probably need time off during the day to visit your doctor and to deal with flares (which are generally unexpected). Or you may want to start your workday later or work from home in the a.m. if you’re achy in the morning.

Aren’t sure how you’ll be feeling? Tell your boss that you’ll return with a plan once you know more about your health.

Beginning the conversation
Schedule an appointment with your boss or the human resources department so you’re guaranteed to have their attention and time. Speak with them in a private and comfortable area.

Take paper and a pen with you to document the conversation. You may want to get important issues in writing after your chat. 

April 2013