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Recently I reposted an article called, “Should I Tell My Employer I have Lyme Disease,” https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2017/09/21/should-i-tell-my-employer-i-have-lyme-disease/ which had a positive outcome. Please know there are negative outcomes as well and the following article reveals some helpful information to consider before you tell anyone at your work place you are ill. The article’s advice after the Dailykos link is the opinion of OptiMisTick in New Jersey, an experienced patient and advocate and is not to be construed as medical or legal advice, but is wise counsel all the same.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2009/07/07/751100/-How-I-lost-my-health-insurance-at-the-hairstylist-s (go there to read the story)

While the Dailykos article is not specifically about Tick Borne Illness (TBI’s), the synopsis shows that insurers can raise employer rates and then state that if a certain employee were no longer employed, their rates would go back to normal. Then the behind-the-scenes tricks start. The patient’s position is eliminated. They are offered a position they can’t do, is far away, is given a buyout, or not even that. If they are not so lucky, suddenly any mistake is magnified, and they are fired for cause. Thus ends the expensive patient on the employer’s insurance. An older woman who once sat next to me was given a job on the third story of a building with no elevator, after her former job was cut in half as the excuse to get her out. Surprisingly she took the offered job and surprisingly, did the climb. I think the employer was surprised too.

All employers know that Lyme disease is probably chronic, and so do their insurers. This is why insurers “reportedly” turn in doctors. All employers know that sooner or later, with Lyme, the patient is going to start missing work, then come in sporadically, and then have a problem either getting work done or persuading administration to fund Temps. They will possibly use their Long Term Disability. They will cost them and they will receive no work for the cost. The timeline for getting work done will expand and vary, and the resentment can mount up, especially from colleagues who have to take on the work, or the boss may simply resent jumping through extra hoops.

I know someone who used to hang IV’s at work calling them vitamins. The employer was well aware they could not ask medical questions and when the patient told her colleagues it wasn’t really vitamins, they in turn spread the information confided to them.

I have seen situations where employers knew, seemed to be on the side of the patient, and encouraged them to go out on their employee Long Term Disability plan, except the plan would not approve them right away.  If they would agree to go out on Psych; however, they could be approved right away! The Lyme patient so anxious to put this in motion, not knowing there is a 2-year expiration on Psych – and then not returning to work, now had to fight for Federal disability which is nearly impossible because Lyme and Tickborne diseases are NOT in “The Blue Book,” which is the book of allowable diagnoses in Social Security for which doctors can write and document patients as grounds for federal disability payments. By the way I have heard of several cases of forced Psych disability.

Back to employers. As in the article when patients start talking about taking time off, or asking for adjustments, or accommodations which they are legally entitled to, these become key signals to your boss that trouble is just around the corner. They are going to talk to human resources, who know how to get the ball rolling that rolls the patient right out the door. If it is a small business, it will probably be faster, as there are not as many hands to have to go through.

No one has to tell their employer medical information. A person can get the flu or recurring pneumonia, but the word is out on Lyme and TBDs. People don’t just lose their job, they lose health insurance for their families, they lose Long Term Disability covered by employer, they lose Life Insurance, pension accumulation, and more, not to mention, as the article notes, a string of “firings” ruining one’s employability. I know one person put out by an employer ONE day short of 5 years, when they would have been eligible for retirement accrual, and was told, “don’t even set foot in this building”, so that person could never claim to have been there working for that ONE needed day.