It’s something that a lot of people wonder, whether they are newly diagnosed or even have been for some time. ‘If I have a disability or illness that isn’t outwardly apparent do I need to disclose it to my employer’?’ Do I need to explicitly state it on an application or in a job interview?’
The very short answer is No. You do not.
But to go into more detail –
With few exceptions, U.S law prohibits employers from discriminating against an applicant or employee with a disclosed disability. They also cannot discriminate against anyone they suspect of having a disability. So, from a legal standpoint, you are protected and the decision to disclose it is entirely up to you. But the legality aside, disclosing an illness either in the workplace or otherwise is a very personal decision that may have a lot of emotion tied to it.
There are many reasons some people choose to be open about their illness at work. They may want to ask for a reasonable adjustment to the workplace, or they may be close to their co-workers or managers and informally wish to let them into their lives. Some also see it as a form of activism, striving to give those with illnesses like themselves visibility and a voice, showing they are valuable and capable.
There are equally as many reasons people choose not to disclose. They may not be entirely open about their illness in general or they may just choose to keep their private life out of the workplace. However, one of the biggest reasons is that they are afraid of potential judgment or negative reactions from their co-workers. While there is no way to know for sure how others will react, bear in mind that anything disclosed, formally or informally could be repeated, so trusting your work colleagues might be a factor in your decision.
Whatever you decide make sure that above all you feel comfortable. It’s important that you feel safe and valued at your place of employment. If that means not disclosing your illness until you are comfortable or potentially never disclosing this information, that is your right. But do know that regardless of your situation, whether you choose to disclose or not disclose if you feel that your rights are being violated or that you are being discriminated against because of an illness or disability you can file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
A large part of our lives is spent at work. Be empowered to make sure your experience there is healthy and positive.