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.
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.