Crohn’s is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects nearly 700,000 people in the United States. People with Crohn’s disease experience frequent diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramping, and fatigue during a flare-up.

Because of this, having Crohn’s disease can make interviewing and landing a job harder than usual, but it’s not impossible. You can still grow your professional career, although you might need to make a few adjustments to accommodate for your condition.

Do I have to tell my employer about my condition during the interview?

As long as you can do everything that the job requires, you don’t have to mention your condition during the interview. The hiring manager can ask if there’s something that might prevent you from carrying out your job duties, but they can’t ask if you have a health condition.

It can be in your best interest to let your manager know about your Crohn’s disease once you’re hired. That way you won’t have to keep explaining why you need to take time off to see your doctor or manage symptom flares.

Can an employer choose not to hire me because I have Crohn’s disease?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer can’t discriminate against you because you have Crohn’s disease. As long as you can carry out the main functions of the job, a company can’t deny you employment.

Can I ask for workplace accommodations?

Dealing with abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fatigue can be difficult when you work a full-time job. To keep your position, you may need to ask your employer for some accommodations. Under the ADA, any company with more than 15 employees has to provide the right accommodations to anyone with a life-limiting disease.

The only thing to be aware of is that the changes you request can’t put a serious financial strain on your company or change the way it does business.

What kinds of accommodations should I request?

Examples of workplace accommodations for Crohn’s disease can include:

  • asking for flex time so you can work when you’re less tired or when your symptoms are less likely to flare up
  • asking to move to a desk that’s close to the bathroom
  • getting more frequent breaks so you can use the bathroom
  • getting more time off for medical appointments

To ask for these or other accommodations, start by contacting your company’s human resources department. You’ll likely need a note from your doctor explaining your condition and how it impacts your daily life.

Do I need to tell my co-workers about my Crohn’s disease?

It’s your choice to tell your co-workers about your condition. You can share as much or as little about your Crohn’s disease as you’d like. If you’re a private person, you might prefer to say little to nothing about it. Yet it can help to have people who understand what you’re going through. That way you don’t need to explain why you’ve missed work or why you keep going to the bathroom.

If you do tell co-workers about your Crohn’s disease, try to explain as much as you can about the condition. They may not be too familiar with the disease, so be ready to answer some questions.

What can I do if I’m unable to work for several weeks?

If your condition worsens to the point where you can’t make it to work or carry out your duties, you don’t have to give up your job. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks off from work within a 12-month period for medical leave. Once you’re able to return to work, your company must make your old job — or a similar job — available to you.

For you to qualify for medical leave, your company needs to have at least 50 employees. You’ll also need to have worked there for at least 12 months (but those months don’t need to have been consecutive).

Where can I learn more about working with Crohn’s disease?

To learn more about job accommodations for Crohn’s disease and other chronic conditions, visit the Job Accommodation Network or ADA National Network website.