I currently work full time as an attorney. It is mostly a desk job, which is the only thing that makes it possible. If it was a job that involved any kind of manual labor or even standing for long periods of time, I would not be able to do it. Also, I’ve been sick for less than a year. You read about a lot of PWC’s who were able to work for a while at first, before having to quit. So it may be that I’m just in an early stage of CFS. I just have to wait and see how the disease progresses.
As far as accommodations, I’ve had to make three adjustments. Normally, lawyering is a job that requires more than your typical 9-to-5 schedule. Most lawyers work until at least 6:30 or 7 on a regular night. The first thing I did was to explain to the powers-that–be at my firm that I need to leave by about 5pm every day. I can’t be killing myself while trying to heal at the same time. They understood and we agreed that I would skip getting a raise this year, but my pay would not be reduced. That seemed fair to me.
The second thing is I explained to them the nature of CFS and “crashes.” I provided a number of articles about crashes for them to read. So I told them that they should expect that I will have to miss work every once in a while when things get bad. (So far, that’s only been about 3-4 days a month). When possible, I try to work a little bit from home on those days. All they really care about is that I make my billable hours requirement, so it has worked out so far.
The third thing is that I told them I will likely not be able to do trials any longer. This could be a major problem. Two years ago, I was promoted to “partner” specifically because I was to be the guy who handled all the trials. But trials involve 14 hour work days, ENORMOUS stress, and usually travelling to another part of the state or country…wherever the trial is venued. Obviously, none of that is possible in my current condition.
Typically, one of our cases goes to trial about once a year. Right now, it’s been over a year since our last trial, so I’m overdue. But I made it clear that I cannot be “the trial guy” any more, unless my health drastically improves. For now, we agreed that we would “cross that bridge when we come to it.” If the next trial comes and I cannot handle it, I may have to volunteer for a pay cut or something. I really don’t know how that’s going to work out…
Luckily brain fog is not one of my symptoms. If it ever becomes one of my symptoms, I may be screwed. But for now, I figure that if I was at home all day, I’d be doing the same thing I do at work now, which is sit in front of a computer screen all day. So I figure I might as well keep getting paid for it while I still can…
I realize, a lot of this isn’t directly applicable to you in your field, so I guess my advice would be: if possible establish your worth first, then negotiate knowing your value to the company, but be willing to make reasonable concessions. By the way, I’m not sure if you’re legally required to disclose your illness before being hired. You might want to look into that… If I get a chance later, I’ll look into it too.
You probably know this already, but the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows existing employees with disabilities to make a request for reasonable accommodations to their employer, and the employer MUST comply as long as it is “reasonable.” [In fact, in 2009, I got a client $540,000 after she made an ADA request to her employer, for early-onset dementia, and they fired her instead!]
I have NOT looked into whether CFS qualifies as a disability under the Act. But, if you decided to make a request, I can help you draft one that complies with the statute.
Good luck. I’m pulling for you,