A CONSEQUENCE CONSIDERATION
Before you begin, click on the icon below to download the Disclosure Decision Worksheet
1. Why am I Telling?
Individuals disclose their disability for a variety of reasons. Understanding why you want to disclose is often helpful in determining if you should disclose. The why typically falls into one of two buckets: Emotional Reasons or Practical Reasons.
Some of the most common emotional reasons are:
- I feel guilty for not telling, like I am keeping an important secret.
- I’m afraid I will be found out. Then what?
- I am socially isolated and want to be able to talk with my peers about my disability and get their support.
- My best friend told me to disclose.
- I see people talking behind my back, wondering what’s wrong with me so better if I get it out in the open.
- I want people to know I’m not just lazy.
Some of the most common practical reasons are:
- I need to take time to heal.
- I’m not feeling well and it’s impacting my abililty to do my job.
- I am going to need to miss a lot of work for doctors appointments and/or therapy.
- My medications are affecting my work performance.
- I received a poor performance evaluation and know it’s directly attributable to my disability.
- My symptoms are becoming obvious to others.
- I suddenly require a reasonable accommodation to do my job effectively.
- I need to take a medical leave of absence.
- By disclosing I will generate trust and an open relationship with my employer, allowing me to discuss the most effective workplace accommodation strategies.
- My disability is or has become visible and I want to deal with any misconceptions about my ability to do my job.
- I want to know that in an emergency, my employer can immediately meet my needs.
2. Who am I telling?
If you decide to disclose, careful consideration should be given to whom the recipient of this information should be. Possible recipients include supervisors, managers, human resources staff, or an Equal Employment Opportunity officer. Should they all be told or only one individual? There are very few situations where all of these individuals would need to know. Generally, it is best to begin by disclosing only to those you believe need to know. Many employees opt to tell their supervisor or manager and/or human resources representative. It’s typically not recommended that an individual make their disclosure (for purposes of an accommodation) to a co-worker, even if that co-worker is someone with a disability or someone running a disability employee resource group.
Whomever you determine is the appropriate person to disclose to, do so yourself. Never ask a co-worker, friend or family member to do it for you.
3. How much am I telling?
Disclosure is not about telling your manager everything he/she could ever want to know about your medical diagnosis or prognosis, medical history. It is however, about disclosing that you have a diagnosis or condition that impacts your ability to perform specific, essential functions of your job and what that impact is. It’s also a good time to discuss realistic projections in terms of whether the impairment is expected to improve, remain the same or worsen with time and if known, expected time frame. The key here is that your employer needs to understand what type of accommodation you are going to need and the basis for it.
In some cases, your employer may request additional information to determine appropriate accommodations. At no time however, should you feel obligated to provide any specific or personal medical information that is not directly linked to your ability to perform the essential functions of your job.
Keep in mind that this process is about disclosure, not confession.