Accommodating Employees with Migraine Headaches


People with migraine headaches may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with migraine headaches will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee with migraines experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Has the employee with migraines been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
  6. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee with migraines to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  7. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training regarding migraine headaches?

Accommodation Ideas

Lighting Triggers:

  • Add fluorescent light filters to existing fluorescent lights to create a more natural lighting
  • Change lighting completely
  • Provide an anti-glare filter for computer monitor
  • Provide a liquid crystal display monitor that has a better refresh rate
  • Move employee to a private area to allow for personal adjustment to appropriate lighting
  • Allow the employee to wear sunglasses or anti-glare glasses in the work area
  • Allow telework

Noise Triggers:

  • Move employee to a more private area or away from high traffic areas
  • Provide an environmental sound machine to help mask distracting sounds
  • Provide noise canceling headsets
  • Provide sound absorption panels
  • Encourage coworkers to keep non-work related conversation to a minimum

Smell/Fragrance Triggers:

  • Implement a fragrance-free policy
  • Request that employees voluntarily refrain from wearing fragrances
  • Allow telework
  • Move the employee to an area where the fragrances are not as strong
  • Allow a flexible schedule
  • Provide air purification systems


  • Provide flexible leave when the employee is experiencing a migraine
  • Allow the employee to telework when the employee is experiencing a migraine
  • Do not mandate attendance at after-hours social functions if an employee is affected by a disruption in sleep patterns
  • Provide the employee with a dark, private area to go to when experiencing a migraine

Situations and Solutions:

An employee who works in a cubicle setting was experiencing migraine headaches that were triggered by the noise level; she was located in a high traffic area by the copy machine. The employer accommodated this employee by moving her to an area with less traffic and providing an environmental sound machine.

A computer programmer experienced migraines that were triggered by the noise level in his cubicle and the overhead fluorescent lighting. As an accommodation, his employer provided him with a noise canceling headset, disabled the fluorescent light above his cubicle, and provided natural task lighting.

A human resource representative had migraines several times a month, which prevented her from working. As an accommodation, the employer provided unpaid flexible leave after all of her paid leave was exhausted.

An assembly line worker’s migraines were triggered by various fragrances. The employees around him often wore overwhelming perfumes that caused him to have a migraine. As an accommodation, the employer asked other employees to voluntarily refrain from wearing fragrances. The employee was also moved to a part of the assembly line where the fragrances were not as strong.

An accountant had a migraine headache about twice a week, which prevented him from coming to work. As an accommodation, the employer allowed this employee to work for home when he had a migraine headache. If his migraine was too severe to work from home, the employee was allowed to use comp time.

The above is an excerpt from the article, “Accommodation and Compliance Series:
Employees with Migraine Headaches.” For more information please

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