Work & Chronic Illness
Yesterday, an interesting question was posed on a Facebook group that I am part of- when to disclose to an employer that you have a chronic illness. Majority of those who responded said that they disclosed their illness right off the bat- one even as early as in the interview.
I understand the benefits of disclosing that information right off the bat- it gets it out there so that if something happens and you need to take time off, they already know why and are more accommodating.
However,there are negatives that go with disclosing that information as well. By disclosing such personal information, you are giving them ammunition to use against you in the future. If you disclose this in an interview, while they won’t outwardly say it, they can use it as a reason to not hire you for the job, no matter how much they like you, because of your illness. It’s part of the reason why Dan won’t let me post pictures of him or any distinguishing details about him on this blog – he fears that if a prospective employer Googles him, finds the blog, and reads about him having Crohn’s Disease, they won’t hire him.
I personally believe that you don’t disclose something like this until its absolutely necessary. In 2010, I was put in a situation where I needed to disclose to my boss that I was suffering from extreme anxiety and would have to leave work early once a week to go to therapy and might periodically miss work due to panic attacks. I was lucky that he was extremely understanding of my situation and didn’t mind. However, I believe that if I disclosed it too soon or before it was really an issue, he may have looked at me differently or opted to go with another person for the job.
The one benefit about disclosing an illness once you are in a job is that if it falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act, if you work in a place with 15 or more employees, you ” may be protected from discrimination in hiring, promotions, pay, and other privileges of employment.”
Additionally, under the ADA, you can request “reasonable accommodations” from your employer, such as moving your desk closer to the restroom, being able to telecommute periodically, or being able to take time-off during a flare. You can read more about how the ADA protects you here.
That being said- the decision to disclose is a personal one. There is no right or wrong answer and it’s completely dependent on the situation you are in.
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