Is Autoimmune Disease a Disability?

Holly Bertone, CNHP, PMP

This article is shared by Holly Bertone, CNHP, PMP, President of Pink Fortitude, and author of the #1 Amazon bestselling book, Thriving in the Workplace with Autoimmune Disease: Know Your Rights, Resolve Conflict, and Reduce Stress.

Is Autoimmune Disease a disability? This is the million dollar question. The short answer is that if your autoimmune disease causes certain conditions under the Americans with Disability Act, then yes, you are protected under the law.

The long answer is that it’s a lot more complicated. First of all, I can’t tell you how many individuals I’ve spoken with who have AI, who do not view having an autoimmune disease as a disability. Some of them have been able to manage their conditions and live productive lives without any issues. Some of them are too proud to consider themselves disabled.

It’s a double edged sword. I think the word “disability” sometimes has negative connotations in our society of someone who is not able to perform or function. One of the challenges of having AI is the common occurrence of people saying, “But you don’t look sick.” If you are able to hold down a full time job, but still need some accommodations, your manager or company may not understand the connection. Or you may not view yourself as having a disability, especially compared to someone else with a more visible disability. It’s a change in mindset and education.

Back to the law. The ADA was amended in 2008, and went into effect January 1, 2009. If AI was ever blurry under the law before, these amendments added a new category of major life activities called “major bodily functions,” which specifically includes the endocrine and immune systems.

According to this Amendment, under Section 4, Disability Defined and Rules of Construction, (2) Major Life Activities, (B) Major Bodily Functions, it states, “For purposes of paragraph (1), a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.”

It doesn’t matter how you feel about being considered disabled. It certainly doesn’t matter if your employer wants to acknowledge your disability. The language of the law is crystal clear.

If you meet the required conditions under the law, then you are legally protected under the ADA.

“If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, the ADA protects you from job discrimination on the basis of your disability.” (

The #1 Amazon bestseller, Managing Your Autoimmune Condition in the Workplace is the first book ever to educate individuals specifically with autoimmune disease on their legal and disability rights in the workplace. The book was born out of author Holly Bertone’s personal and painful experience and lack of resources available specifically for individuals with autoimmune diseases. She walks you through the basics of navigating FMLA, EEO, reasonable accommodations, working with your boss, and then provides much needed resources to help you find that critical balance between taking care of your health and managing your symptoms at work.

Holly Bertone, CNHP, PMP, is a best selling author, and health entrepreneur. She is the President and CEO of Pink Fortitude, LLC and runs the health and wellness website Holly is a breast cancer and Hashimoto’s survivor and turned these two significant health challenges into a passion to help others. She inspires others with her quick wit, brutal honesty, and simple ways to be healthy in real life. You can follow her on social media: @pinkfortitude