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Disclosing Your Health Condition To Your Employer

Reasons to Disclose And Reasons Not To Disclose A Health Condition

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As you make a decision, the following reasons to disclose or not to disclose your health condition to your employer may help you. Add your own reasons to the list.

Possible Reasons to Disclose

  • Avoid the stress that comes with keeping a secret, especially when it seems that the more important the secret, the greater the stress in keeping it.
  • Unless you disclose your health condition, you cannot get the legal protections described in the next section -- such as the right to a reasonable accommodation to perform the essential functions of your job, or to unpaid leave if it becomes necessary. (To learn more, see Protections Under The Law.)
  • You may gain support from a surprisingly supportive employer. If you aren't familiar with your employer's attitude, look for a person you can trust who has been with your company long enough to advise you about this subject. Since there are no legal requirements for co-workers to keep medical information confidential, be sure anyone you choose as an advisor is someone you have reason to trust. (To learn more, see Advisor.)
  • You may be able to speak more openly to your employer about any issues that arise for you, including any changes in your health.
  • You will not have to worry about your employer finding out about your diagnosis such as from a phone call from your doctor's office or a change in your physical appearance.  For instance, rapid weight loss or gain accompanied by clothes that are too tight or too loose.
  • As a general matter, what you disclose to your employer must be kept confidential. (To learn more, see: Your Employer Must Keep Your Health Condition Confidential.)
  • You can take your drugs and other treatments without having to hide them.

Possible reasons not to disclose

  • If your employer reacts poorly to your medical condition, you may find that there are subtle or not so subtle changes in your relationship.
  • Secrecy is often confused with toughness, and some of us see toughness as a virtue.
  • An employer that is initially supportive may change.
  • You may feel that you are being treated differently, or that you are no longer being judged on your performance, but by your diagnosis.
  • You don't want to feel pity or be treated "differently."
  • If your employer isn't friendly to people with your medical condition, you may encounter discrimination from your employer despite the law. This might include anything from being passed over for a raise or a promotion to having your employment terminated.

As you will see in the other sections of this document: how, when and what you disclose to your employer about your condition will likely be closely linked to the reason for your disclosure.

If you choose not to disclose your health condition, be sure to look at: If I Chose Not To Disclose: How Can I Handle Workplace Issues?

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