If you are an adult with mild or corrected congenital heart disease who is ready to seek a job, the good news is that you likely will experience little or no effects on your employment options.
However, sometimes limitations in the types of jobs you can do may help to keep you healthy, particularly for jobs that are physically strenuous. While adults with congenital heart disease seldom have restrictions on the number of hours they can work, your physician may advise you to adhere to restrictions on some physical activities. Also, if you have to take blood thinners (for instance, if you have a mechanical heart valve), this may have an effect on your job choices. It is very important to discuss questions about job options with your cardiologist. He or she can help you determine what jobs are right for you.
Your cardiologist can also help you tackle questions you may have about which jobs are safe for your heart. In instances when congenital heart disease may affect employment, there are legal measures in place to ensure fair treatment during hiring and in the workplace, as well as to help with financial assistance and resources.
The following resources may be helpful in understanding your rights in the workplace. If your treating physician is a specialist in adult congenital heart disease, he or she will likely be able to refer you to professionals who can also assist you in navigating employment and workplace concerns, as well as career counseling and job training. A health insurance counselor can help you assess if a job position will meet your health insurance needs.
Knowing Your Rights
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC enforces federal laws that are designed to protect qualified job applicants or current employees from discrimination in hiring or on the job. The EEOC website section on disability discrimination is a good resource for understanding how disability and discrimination are defined and what legal requirements are in place.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the workplace, the ADA protects qualified individuals with disabilities from unequal treatment in hiring and on the job. It also establishes the right of employees to request a “reasonable accommodation” -- essentially any adjustment to the work environment that will enable the person to perform his or her job successfully. Anyone who feels that his or her ADA rights have been violated file a complaint with the EEOC. For more on the ADA, see http://www.ada.gov/
When employment is not an option, income may be available to support the cost of living expenses through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other programs. For more information on government sources of financial help and on health insurance, check out SecondsCount’s discussion of Financial and Health Insurance Information for Patients with Congenital Heart Disease.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor or Qualified Professional About Employment
The following questions can help you talk with your physician or employment counselor. Print out or write down these questions, and take them with you to your appointment. Taking notes can help you remember what you learned when you get home.
- Do I have any physical activity restrictions?
- What kinds of jobs can I have? Are there jobs I should avoid?
- Will any of my medications affect my job performance?
- Are there other professionals who may help me, such as health insurance/financial counselors, social workers, mental health counselors, career counselors?