Misophonia Work Accommodations: It’s Your Right To Ask!

Living with Misophonia is a struggle for all of us. How do you work with Misophonia? Imagine working in an office, which you would assume is a quiet atmosphere. WRONG! An office has an infinite number of triggers, from keyboards, shoes on the floor to those annoying co-workers who always have an endless supply of noisy snacks at their desk. What do you do? How do you cope? How do you get through the day without going postal?  REASONABLE MISOPHONIA WORK ACCOMMODATIONS.

In the United States, you have a right to ask for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The thing to remember is that employers are only required to accommodate your restrictions if they are reasonable and do not cause undue hardship to the employer.

MYTH-  I do not have a disability, do I?

FACT- Misophonia is not recognized as a medical condition under the DSM, that does not mean it is not an actual condition. “The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.” As a sufferer of Misophonia, it definitely qualifies as a disability.

How do you go about getting reasonable accommodations? It is not as complicated as you think. Many people are afraid to ask for accommodations because they are afraid to lose their job. YOU CANNOT LOSE YOUR JOB BECAUSE YOU HAVE A DISABILITY. Would you rather step up and advocate for yourself or continue to suffer? That is a question that only you can answer.

I am going to provide you with some general guideline to use to help you get work accommodations. You will be pleasantly surprised at what a difference they will make.

Step 1  Preparation

Make a list of your triggers in your workplace. Next, evaluate ways that can make those triggers less distressing. Some examples of possible triggers and possible solutions might include:

Trigger-  Coworker that talks very loud on the phone all day

Possible accommodation-  Ask for permission to use noise-cancelling headphones. You can always put a sign on your desk or cubicle wall “Wearing headphones/earplugs, please gently tap me on the shoulder if you need to speak to me. Thank you.”

Trigger-            Your workstation is next to the copy room, and the sounds of the copiers, printers and possibly heavy foot traffic

Possible accommodation-  It could be as simple as relocating your workstation away from the copy room.

Depending on the workspace, some accommodations can include a private office, ability to wear noise cancelling headphones, relocation of your work station, etc.

Step 2- Draft a letter to your Human Resources Department.

Keep it simple. Less is always more.

Example:

Date

To:  

From:  

Topic:   Requesting Workplace Accommodations

I am INSERT TITLE employed by INSERT COMPANY for XX years  

This letter serves as my official request for work accommodations under the ADA.

I suffer from a condition known as Misophonia/Abnormal Sound Sensitivity Processing Disorder, a severely debilitating condition. As a person with this disability, I am requesting reasonable accommodations to allow me to perform my job duties.

COMPLETE THIS WITH YOUR OWN REQUESTS. 

i.e.  The ability to wear headphones

I would like to request a meeting to discuss some options for accommodating my disability that can be mutually beneficial to all of us. I would appreciate a written response within 1-2 weeks. Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Be prepared, your employer may request supporting documentation. Find out what documentation they specifically require. Don’t panic, a simple letter from your physician should be sufficient documentation.  Typically, once the documents are in place, you will need to update them annually.

If you have any questions about disabilities in the workplace, there is a wonderful organization called the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) which offers free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.  (www.askjan.org)

 

Vicki has worked in HR for many years. For a sample accommodation letter to take to your doctor and have customized, please see here. 

Looking for more information on misophonia? Consider attending our workshops at Misophoniaeducation.com

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8 comments

Jacqueline March 30, 2018 - 12:21 pm

My HR office is close to my desk & my HR lady smacks & pops her gum ALL day! Finally I had enough, I emailed my office manager & told her I have a hearing impairment & that the sound of the gum was causing me anxiety. She spoke to my HR lady & now she doesn’t do it. Sometimes she will slip so I’ll walk by so she sees me & remembers. Then it stops again. Best decision to speak up for me . Now if I can get the girl behind me to stop eating chips I’d be set!

Doris July 8, 2018 - 9:55 am

I have yet to be diagnosed. But I know I have this. Years ago I had to stop wearing a watch because the ticking drove me crazy. I coworker at my last job in a cubicle diagonal from me drove me crazy while using a highlighter. At my present job, the girl in front of me chews ice all day. She and the girl in front of her hums all day! It literally buts me in a flight mentality, so I blast music in my ears! They are redesigning our office and are giving us lower cubicle walls. I am panicking just thinking of how the noise will intensify!

Rebecca R Swille August 27, 2018 - 7:03 am

I’m starting a new job tomorrow and can’t sleep tonight! I was told I would be in a cubicle (they called it a “cubby”, isn’t that cute?). I haven’t been in a cubicle in 17 years. I’d rather work in a closet than work in a cubicle.

Diana Arroyo August 30, 2018 - 4:03 pm

I started a new job, as a temp, 2 weeks ago. I felt blessed working in the mail room with hardly no triggers. Throughout the days working & getting to know my 3 co workers, I explained to them about having Misophonia. They seemed understanding. One of them even wrote down what my triggers were. Well, last Thursday, one co worker was clicking the lid of a marker repeatedly. I lightly tapped her on the arm to get her attention & asked if she could please not make the noise. She stopped & apologized. Come Saturday afternoon, I get a phone call from my temp agency rep saying that the company wants to end my assignment effective immediately due to putting my hands on a employee & being hostile towards them. Well, little did know just tapping on someone to get their attention could get you into trouble, but being hostile was something I didn’t do. My temp agency rep is aware of my condition. She makes sure to get me jobs that allow me to wear earbuds. But in this situation do any of you feel I was wrongfully let go of? Do you think there’s something I can do? I don’t have a doctor’s notice yet. I plan to get one, now that have insurance. If there’s anybody who works in Human Resource that can give me advice, or anybody’s advice, it would be greatly appreciated.

Vicki August 30, 2018 - 4:10 pm

You need to have the work accommodations in place, which means you need to have it in writing and backed by medical documentation. If it is not in writing you probably do not have a strong case. You can always contact the Janjob network and speak to someone for advice. I am assuming you are in the US which is where it applies.

Shaye December 3, 2018 - 12:16 pm

Hi,
I have been suffering with misophonia and hyperacusis for my whole life. As time has gone on, it has gotten worse. I have had to quit a lot of jobs and I have lost a few because of this. I just resigned again today – too much noise – most of it unnecessary. I was wondering if you had any advice for temporary and freelance workers? Do we submit this to the temp agency? What if we don’t get hired anywhere?

Dawn Michelle February 21, 2019 - 8:40 am

My husband and I have been desperately looking for work in a new town. I finally acquired a temp job doing data entry and customer service. The guy that sits next to me clears his through every 10-20 seconds. It’s insane!! After talking with him about it on 3 separate occasions I finally went to my director. She basically said, it is what it is. Do I either have to quit (and we may loose everything) or deal with it. It is so incredibly distracting!!!! I have so much anxiety I can’t function. I could try asking for accommodation (I basically already have in my opinion) but I highly doubt they will do a darn thing. So I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. It really sucks!! Even the girls that don’t sit right next to him like I do are bothered by it. I’m just overwhelmed.

Juliette April 6, 2019 - 2:32 pm

What does a person do when you explained to your manager and supervisor that your co-worker who types with her nails, all day long, causes you anxiety and they ignore you and won’t allow you to wear headphones because you must be available should someone call your name.

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