Crohn's disease is chronic, genetic, medical condition which is characterised by inflammation of the digestive system, most commonly of the small intestine. Crohn's disease is manifest by periods of remission and periods of flared symptoms which may interfere with employment. Symptoms include persistent diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, difficulty maintaining weight, bleeding of the rectum and blockages of the intestinal tract, requiring surgery.
Approximately 162 out of every 100,000 people in the United States live with Crohn's disease, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Fatigue, pain, side effects from medications and surgeries to remove diseased sections of the intestines may cause significant disruptions in the workplace.
A person with a chronic illness is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act when the symptoms of the disease affect one or more major life activities, states the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employees with Crohn's disease can request accommodations in the workplace to help care for their health. Reasonable accommodations may include consistent work schedules, scheduled meal breaks and a work site close to the rest room.
Employers are restricted under the Americans with Disabilities Act as to the type of questions that they can ask regarding an employee's medical condition. Employers may ask about an employee's medical condition if they have a reasonable indication that the employee's health is interfering with the person's work performance, when an employee asks for an accommodation, or when the employee is experiencing a medical emergency. Employers may not release information about an employee's medical condition except to managers and supervisors who provide workplace accommodations or to ensure the safety of the employee.
Safety risks of employees with Crohn's disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases are limited. Employees may need to avoid activities which include heavy lifting or bending to prevent rupture of the intestines.
Employers can support employees with Crohn's disease and other health concerns by promoting healthier lifestyles at work. Examples include providing healthy food options in company vending machines and cafeterias, implementing a wellness program which distributes information on health and wellness and encourages employees to remain physically active.
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