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Your Rights continued...

"I remind patients that they are covered by the ADA and that their employer cannot discriminate against them because they have ulcerative colitis," he says. "If they're in the middle of a flare and need frequent breaks to go to the bathroom, or if they have to avoid heavy lifting while recovering from surgery, people need to know they are entitled to accommodations."

The ADA -- and particularly the ADA amendments that went into effect in 2009 -- can help people with UC to get "reasonable accommodations" from their employers to do some parts of their job. An accommodation for someone with UC could be:

  • Extra breaks
  • A modified work schedule
  • Easier access to a bathroom
  • Being excused from heavy lifting

Applying for FMLA Time

Proper care during a flare involves lab visits and follow-up appointments and, if matters are severe, possibly a hospital visit. That can add up to a lot of time off.

If your missed time becomes an issue for your employer, or you're worried that it could be, contact your human resources (HR) department to ask about Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) time, Ghazi suggests.

Gastroenterologists often help people with UC fill out FMLA paperwork ahead of time. "It's a good idea to get it filled out and have it within your file with the human resources department at work," she says. "Then, if you suddenly need it, you can activate it and take the time off that you need to get your flare under control."

Even when in remission, people with UC need to see their gastroenterologist every few months, and the FMLA can be helpful for this, too.

Having UC shouldn't cause extra problems at work. "People with UC, much like people with many other chronic illnesses, should expect to be able to live a normal life and be treated just like everyone else," Ghazi says.