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Ulcerative Colitis and Your Job

Tell Your Supervisor continued...

Tell them you've been having some ongoing health issues, and you're working to get those resolved, Ghazi says. Explain that you may need to step out of meetings or off the floor or away from your desk, but that you will jump back in as soon as you can.

Also, let your supervisor know that getting your condition under control means you may need to spend some time visiting your doctor over the next few weeks or months.

Your Rights

If your employer isn't supportive, you may need to bring up the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Cataldo says.

"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 get "reasonable accommodations" from their employers. For someone with UC, those 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 the problem is 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 says.

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 after the flare ends, and when symptoms go away for a time, people with UC need to see their gastroenterologist every few months. The FMLA can be helpful for this, too.

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