Narcolepsy: A Real Disability Of A Real Person And Not Just A Legal Case

As the writer of a blog on employment I am never at a loss for interesting content.  I have always maintained that the workplace is a microcosm of society at large, and so there are always interesting cases, and, more important, real people behind these cases.

It’s good when I am reminded of this.

My post the other day about a new lawsuit brought under the Americans With Disabilities Act by a police officer with narcolepsy was one such post.  I talked about not being “chained” to fears, biases or stereotypes against people with disabilities, and commented on an Austin-based detective with narcolepsy who was awarded more than $240,000 by a jury in an ADA “failure to accommodate” case.


I received an email from Julie Flygare who, as her web site notes, is the founder of Project Sleep, a leading narcolepsy spokesperson, published author, blogger and runner, who received her B.A. from Brown University in 2005 and her J.D. from Boston College Law School in 2009.

She wrote:

“Thank you for your awesome article:

“I really loved your takeaway about this being “an interactive process”. This is an extremely important point that I think will help people with narcolepsy (and people with other invisible, chronic or misunderstood conditions) in thinking about the process of obtaining employment or educational accommodations.

“I was diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy 9 years ago, at the beginning of my 2L year at Boston College Law School and ended up focusing my legal education on rare disease drug development/FDA law.

“My father was an employment attorney in New Hampshire, so he provided some guidance to me in understanding ADA and employment and educational accommodations for people with narcolepsy. So, I was also well aware of the risks I was taking on when I chose to “come out” publicly as a person with narcolepsy 7 years ago to dedicate my life to changing misconceptions.

“I haven’t done too much in the legal area, but I did publish a chapter on employment and educational accommodations for a recent narcolepsy clinical textbook for doctors.

“However, I haven’t kept up with the case law in this area, so I was SO excited to find your blog post in my narcolepsy google news alerts today! I’d written a few posts about Cheryl Perich’s Supreme Court case a few years ago, but of course, the legal question in front of the Supreme Court  was not about discrimination or retaliation, but the ministerial exception to ADA.

“Anyway, I just wanted to reach out and say thank you for your great article – you made such an important point about this being an interactive process.   Thanks again.”

Takeaway:  It is always very sobering and a reality check for an attorney to be reminded that lawsuits are not merely about dry legal issues but about real people with real disputes, real problems and real disabilities.  So I thank Julie for the reminder and wish her well.


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]