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Disclosing Your Health Condition To Your Employer


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There are more people with a medical condition or a history of a medical condition in the workplace today than ever before. However, deciding whether or not to disclose your health condition to a current or prospective employer can still be a difficult decision to make. While more and more companies are enlightened and welcome people with a health condition into the workforce, there are still some instances in which ignorance and fear still remain.

Whether or not to disclose your health condition to your employer is a decision that is yours and yours alone. There is no legal obligation to disclose your health status unless you are in a situation where your health condition is a risk to the people you work with or that you come into contact with.

We encourage disclosure. If for no other reason, the greater the secret, the greater the stress. Likewise, disclosure may occur from a simple phone call or message from your doctor's office or if side effects occur such as weight loss or other physical changes, or fatigue.

At the same time, there may be reasons not to disclose which should be considered. For instance, you may not want to tell your employer if your employer has not been sympathetic to people with a condition like yours. 

Fight any urge you may have to make a hasty decision. Once you disclose your condition, there is no turning back. Human Resource personnel indicate that disclosure often occurs as a result of an office crisis. Careful planning can help prevent this.

When considering whether to disclose, keep in mind that, in most situations, if you disclose your situation to your boss and to the people who handle Human Resources:

  • Your condition must be kept confidential.The information must even be kept  in a separate file.
  • You cannot be discriminated against because of your health condition..
  • You can be eligible for up to 12 weeks off work under the Family and Medical Leave Act and similar laws.
  • You can obtain a reasonable accommodation to fit your needs if you can perform the essential functions of your job. To learn more, see Americans With Disabilities Act
  • On a human level, your supervisor or employer may be influenced by an anger at not having been told about your health condition..

Laws do not change the basic fact that employers will generally do what is good for business, not necessarily what is good for you. Even if you have a right within the law, you do not want to have to sue.

Find out what you can about your new boss's attitude. Is your boss sensitive to health problems?

Until you are ready to disclose your medical condition:

  • Do not keep your medical appointments on your work calendar.
  • Do not send or receive e-mails on your work account that refer to your health condition.
  • Create a credible story for the times you are away from work for medical appointments or treatments.
  • Think about aspects of your life outside work that could disclose your health condition. For example:
    • Your Facebook page and othe social media. Do you mention your health condition? Organizations at which you volunteer that relate to your health condition?
    • Social media of your friends and family. Do they mention your health condition?

Before disclosing, practice what to say before hand. This is one of the few areas that a patient has control over. The surest way to get into difficulty is by not practising what you say in advance.

If you do disclose, keep in mind that is important to manage an employer's expectations. Be sure to let your employer know that a diagnosis is fluid. What you know and share today is not necessarily what will be true in a month, or six months or a year from now. A discussion of a health condition is not like talking about leave to have a baby where there are usually clear dates and an understanding of what will happen. It is not possible to predict what will happen to any particular person with a major health condition. Let your employer know that you will keep him/her to date as things progress.

The other sections of this article provide information about:


  • Whether you tell or not, it is advisable to start keeping a work journal about events at work that either show how well you are doing your job or that could seem to be discrimination or harassment. Keeping a journal does not take much time.
  • For information about disclosing to co-workers, click here

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