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I suffer from a chronic medical condition that requires me to take a certain medication. This medication is required for me to have a healthy physical lifestyle; not taking it would put my physical health at risk and complicate the handling of my condition. For many years, I went without this medication and my physical health declined dramatically as a result; however, I was able to work happily, so it wasn't much of an issue to my employer or my coworkers. Recently, however, my doctor told me that I must continue using this medication. I sought out a second opinion from a different doctor and she confirmed that it would be improper for me to not take this medication, especially if I want to reverse the degradation of my condition.

In short, taking this medication is a must and to not take it is not an option.

However, as I've started taking this drug again, I've started running into the side effects pretty hard. Among the side effects is fatigue and nausea, which I have been feeling since I started taking the drug. These side effects are supposed to lessen and fade away over the course of a few months as my body acclimates to the drug, so it's not a permanent thing. But in the short term, it is definitely affecting my ability to work. Lately, I've been suffering from random episodes of extreme brain-fog and spaciness. It makes my job (computer engineering) very difficult when this happens. I don't really have control over it; coffee can only do so much!

I haven't shared these details with my boss nor my coworkers, and I'm not certain if I should or not, or how to bring it up. Any advice?

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I have actually had a very similar situation.

The answer of what to do depends on a couple of things

  1. Your relationship with your line manager
  2. Your job type, and ability to work remotely if needed.

The second is answered partly in your question, as a computer engineer you aren't likely driving heavy machinery, or doing something that risks the health of others. It can be done remotely if needed (usually) but that could be down to your employers discretion.

Honesty is almost always the best thing, and I would have a conversation with your line manager. Just by asking for a 121 session. If your relationship is good, this can normally be handled quite easily. Here in the UK we have employment laws that protect your right to enable you to do your job when you require additional support.

Given that you hopefully only require this support for a limited amount of time and assuming you have been a good employee up to this point I see no reason an employer would look too unfavourably on this situation.

Also, if you can I would get a letter written by your doctor explaining the symptoms and estimated time you will experience them. This will give credence to your situation.

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Tough situation. Are the effects of this medication also permanent or do they fade with time as your body adjusts to the meds? Do you have to operate machinery while at work or drive to and from work? If you don't alert your employer about your change in health status about having to take this mandatory medicine, then there may be an issue down the road where you will not be able to hide the side effects...or worse, the gossip mill will be wondering if you are high or something.

I would suggest speaking with an employment attorney, most worth their salt will provide a free consultation. Pick one that is in your state of where you work, and a half hour consult will probably alleviate your concerns as to whether or not to tell the employer with a doctor's note. I expect that if you do go forward, the issue will be whether you can still do your job satisfactorily or will adjustments need to be made, will other employees have to pitch in to help out?

Lots of factors here. Talk with employment law attorney and bring your employee handbook with you after you read it. Just my two cents. Please keep us posted on what happens.

  • Yes, the side effects will diminish over the course of a few months, presumably. – nasukkin Mar 29 '17 at 15:02
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    I can tell you the effects of not telling and them noticing the loss of productivity are often worse than telling. – HLGEM Mar 29 '17 at 17:28
  • Is it time based ie if you worked a 5 hour day would the symptoms be reduced? – Neuromancer Mar 29 '17 at 18:58
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    Personally, I don't see the need for a lawyer, at least not at this point in the story. Why complicate things with attorneys when a one-on-one discussion with your direct manager might be sufficient? – Radu Murzea Apr 6 '17 at 9:18

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