Talking with Your Employer About IC


If you are finding that interstitial cystitis (IC) is impacting your work performance, consider telling your employer that you have IC. 

Did you know that the American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers (with 15 or more employees) to make accommodations for people with conditions like IC? Many smaller organizations also follow this guidance as a good management practice. The ADA does not require a written request or formal meeting with your employer, but you do need to speak with your boss or human resources staffer about IC and the kind of accommodations that would help you do a good job despite your IC.

Accommodations for Interstitial Cystitis

The US Department of Labor sponsors the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) which is a free service offering expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. JAN can help you find practical solutions that work for both you and your employer.

Typical accommodations specific to interstitial cystitis are detailed on the JAN site. You may want to print the page about accommodations for bladder impairments and share this resource with your employer.

Talking with Your Employer About IC

Telling your employer you have IC is one of the important things you can do to help yourself manage this condition. You may worry about losing your job because of having to run to the bathroom so many times during the day, or missing work because of doctor appointments, or calling in sick because of having a bad IC day. These are legitimate concerns, but if you want to continue to work with IC, telling your boss or your human resources staff about your IC is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Telling your employer about your IC is vital to protecting your job.

Don’t be embarrassed about having IC. It’s a medical condition and people will only understand it and what you are going through if you explain it to them. Once you begin to tell people that you have a bladder impairment, the easier it gets. And that’s what you should tell them – you have a problem with your bladder! Many of us often say that people don’t understand, so it’s up to us to help them understand. You don’t have to tell everyone you work with, but telling your boss and human resources is very important.

You may find that telling your employer upfront makes doing your job easier, because their increased awareness about IC can help figure out accommodations that help manage job tasks and IC during the work day. As long as you demonstrate that you can still do your job, and that you just need some flexibility to get it done, most employers will be more than willing to accommodate you. However, if they don’t know why you are constantly away from your desk, asking to leave for unknown appointments, calling in sick, you only make yourself more vulnerable to disciplinary action. If they know what you are dealing with, they can deal with it.

Here’s a few tips:

    • Bring information for people to read. Get a letter from your doctor and tell them about your pain and symptoms. Print out some of the ICA’s helpful information about IC.

    • Let them know you can still do your job, but because of your condition, you are requesting a “reasonable accommodation”. IC is a legitimate disability and if you tell your employer about it and request an accommodation, they are required to respond to your request for an accommodation such as permission to leave your desk to go to the bathroom as often as you need. Maybe you can discuss a flexible work schedule so you can go to doctor appointments without using up all your sick time. Some employers may even be open to allowing you to work at home once or twice a week.

    • Take notes and document the conversation. Also keep any emails or other correspondence about these talks with your employer.

Raise IC Awareness by Helping Others Better Understand

Remember, you may have IC, but it’s not WHO you are. Don’t be embarrassed to help people and employers understand this condition. The more people know about it, the more it helps everyone suffering from IC.

Posted November 11, 2010