Many people suffer from illnesses and disabilities that are largely invisible. However, they can sometimes flare up and require care. A number of neurological conditions fit this description. The same is true for conditions like migraines or lupus.
Some people feel comfortable sharing this information. Others consider it highly personal. People often fear that telling people at work will affect how others treat them and – in a worst-case scenario – cost them their job.
Do you need accommodations?
In most cases, you’re under no obligation to disclose any medical information as long as your condition won’t affect your ability to do your job. If it does, you have the right to request “reasonable accommodations,” thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That’s any accommodation that won’t be an “undue hardship” for your employer.
While you can’t be denied a job or fired due to a disability or medical condition that doesn’t affect your work, we all know that people have their own prejudices and misconceptions that can cause them to make work life difficult for someone. One person with multiple sclerosis (MS) says she hasn’t told her employer because “once you disclose, it’s a bell you can’t un-ring. You’re not quite sure how people will react.”
Why it may be best to disclose
If you believe you’re going to need accommodations at some point or perhaps a short leave to deal with surgery or other treatment, it may be to your advantage to disclose your condition, at least to your boss and Human Resources. As one official with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says, “If you think you’re going to need accommodations to do the job and do it safely, you should disclose your diagnosis before the need arises or a safety concern presents itself.”
Bosses can often feel blindsided and perhaps insulted when an employee discloses a long-term medical condition only when they need accommodations or extended time off. Further, if your condition is causing problems that affect your work, disclosing it when you’re getting fired likely isn’t going to save your job.
It can be a difficult decision to make, and everyone’s case is unique. It’s important, however, to know your rights as an employee and what actions an employer can and cannot take. If you believe your employer has acted illegally, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.