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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Just Too Pooped to Work?

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If you have an employee who seems constantly exhausted, take note: He or she may suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). And under the newly revised Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), that person could be deemed “disabled” and entitled to reasonable work accommodations.

Case in Point: Lorin Netterville was diagnosed with CFS in the late 1980s, but she had lived symptom-free for many years. That ended soon after she began work as an administrative aide for Chevron. She suffered a relapse of her CFS, whose symptoms include joint pain, inability to concentrate and excessive fatigue after ordinary tasks.

Netterville asked for two accommodations. First, she asked for leave, which was granted. Second, she asked for permission to take more frequent breaks and to alternate job tasks. Chevron never responded to the second request.
Eventually, Netterville was terminated for allegedly misrepresenting her medical history on a...(register to read more)

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome January 30, 2011 at 4:06 am

Why do so many people consider CFS as mental illness??? Even depression has its physical causes (brain chemistry) – and I am not talking about that many people (including doctors), who even do not consider CFS as a real problem.


Ralph (Ph.D., SPHR) September 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm

I find some of these comments to be distressing except for the fact that they provide evidence that these laws are quite necessary. Otherwise, we’d still be using children in industrial jobs, taking advantage of women by paying them at a much lower comparable rate than even the present. We’d also allow employers to default on pension obligations and there would be no SSA because such payments cut into profits. Oh, yeah… we’d also go back to the industrial age where workers earned their pay by sacrificing their bodies and health. Maybe we could bring back black lung disease! If you think today’s laws need changing then, fair enough, make your arguments and do your own advocacy. In the meantime, if you want to play the earnings game, you probably should also spend some time knowing the rules and obeying them.


Carole July 8, 2009 at 9:39 am

I’ not a physician, nor do I suffer from CFS/ME, so am not qualified to discuss it’s existence or what it does to someone. But as HR, I do sometimes questions whether anyone responsible for all the laws and court rulings thinks about the affect of some of this on our businesses. Between ADA & FMLA, who is supposed to be at work answering the phones, providing customer service, delivering the products, marketing the products, etc., etc.? Just curious


Eve June 22, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Iam an RN known to burn the candle at both ends. After being diagnosed with CFS I am now basically house bound. I am unable to do even simple household tasks most days. I know just how real and devestating this illness is.


Janel June 22, 2009 at 3:03 pm

It’s true, MANY physicians question if CFS/ME exists, but of course, they also questioned Alzheimers, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s), etc., until the research was done to show that those patients weren’t crazy either! CFS/ME sufferers also need to speak up and inform not only their physicians, but their friends, families and community around them. Get the word out about how debilitating this disease really is!
Anyone whose life has been forever negatively altered by CFS/ME can show you just how real it is!!!


DoberMom June 22, 2009 at 11:32 am

However; some physicians question if CFS even exists.


Janice P. June 21, 2009 at 2:55 am

Just to clarify – CFS is a PHYSICAL illness, not a mental illness.


Susan Wenger June 19, 2009 at 5:00 am

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (aka “chronic fatigue syndrome”) isn’t a mental illness. It is a physiological disease that causes intense chronic pain and overwhelming exhaustion.


Frances June 18, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The ADA essentially mandates disability for everyone at some point in their life. Personally, I find that offensive and invasive. This is one more socialist mandate for business in the march toward mediocrity.


MarieB June 18, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I don’t believe Netterville had to disclose that information if it was not going to affect her ability to do her job as required. I also ask, in all honesty, how many employers would hire a person knowing that they have a mental illness? Although it is blatant discrimination, it’s the unfortunate truth. I’ve seen it with many employers … not only with mental illness, but physical disabilities too. Most cases of discrimination are not reported in fear of retaliation or a “reputation. It’s rather sad :(


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