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Returning to Work After a Stroke

For many people, working is an important and necessary part of life. After having a stroke, you may be concerned about whether you will be able to return to your career. You may wonder if you will be able to return to the type of work you were doing before the stroke, what rights you have in the workplace, and how much medical information to share with your employer and coworkers. Fortunately there are free resources available to help you answer these questions and help your return to gainful employment.

The Right Job for You

Let’s start with the question of whether you will be able to return to the type of work you were doing pre-stroke.The answer to this question will depend in large part on the type of work you were doing and the limitations you have as a result of the stroke. A good resource to help you sort this out is your state vocational rehabilitation (VR) office. VR is a free, federally funded service designed to help people with disabilities find or maintain employment. VR can help you figure out how you can best use your skills and abilities to return to your job or to get a job that is right for you.

Workplace Accommodations

Accommodation simply means that an employer makes changes to the workplace or the way your job is done so you can work despite your limitations. To determine what accommodations might work for you visit the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). JAN is a free, federally funded service designed to help employers and individuals with disabilities come up with successful workplace accommodations.

Knowing Your rights

Many people who have had a stroke are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination and requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide the accommodations needed to overcome disability-related limitations. This means that you may be legally entitled to the accommodations you need to return to work. For more information about your right to request accommodations and practical ideas about how to get the accommodations you need, see Employees' Practical Guide to Requesting and Negotiating Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Spilling the Beans

Finally, consider how much medical information you should give to your employer and coworkers. First, it is important for you to know that if you need an accommodation, you have the responsibility of letting your employer know, and that means telling the employer that you have a disability. Under the ADA, employers have the right to request medical documentation when your disability and/or need for accommodation are not obvious. However, there are limits to what employers can require you to provide—the request must be limited to documenting you have a disability and need an accommodation. For more information, see Medical Inquiry in Response to an Accommodation Request.

If you are not asking for an accommodation, but you feel that you want to educate your employer and coworkers about your medical condition, that is a personal choice you can make. When educating coworkers, you may want to talk with your employer about the best way to do so. If you need ideas about how to communicate with coworkers about your medical condition, see Communicating with Coworkers.

Getting back to work after a stroke can boost your confidence and independence, and help reestablish a routine and sense of normalcy. Don’t let your limitations limit you—talk with your employer and get back in the saddle again.

By: Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Principal Consultant, Job Accommodation Network, a free service of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy

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"If you are ready to start thinking about returning to work after a stroke, with a little free assistance you can be back to work before you know it."

Know your rights and resources

  • Free resources such as vocational rehabilitation and the Job Accommodation Network are available.
  • Job accommodations may help overcome stroke-related limitations.
  • People who have had strokes may be protected in the workplace by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to provide accommodations.
  • Deciding how much medical information to disclose is a generally a personal choice.
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