To Disclose or Not to Disclose – Part Two - By Keith Hosey
I know that people with psychiatric disabilities are often very apprehensive about disclosing their disabilities due to the societal stigmas that continue to be unfairly associated with various mental illnesses. I read an article about three months ago written by a guest commentator with bipolar disorder about his experiences in employment. He wrote, “Maybe I would have lost the job if I had disclosed. I did anyway because my behavior… I do not walk up to people and say ‘Hi, I have bipolar disorder.’ For myself there is a time and place for disclosure.”
I believe the time and place for disclosure on the job is when your disability is affecting your performance. This is really a good rule for disclosure for anyone whose employer doesn’t know they have a disability; not just those with psychiatric disorders. So, if you need an accommodation you should disclose your disability to your employer. As the author stated, though he had fears related to disclosure he lost the job anyway because he didn’t get an accommodation to help him successfully do his job. If you feel your immediate supervisor won’t understand, Human Resources should know how to respond to your request. The Americans wit Disabilities Act (ADA), and now the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), protects you from discrimination based on an employer’s knowledge about your health conditions and disabilities.
In all disclosure situations it’s a personal choice of where and how you do it. What are your thoughts on disclosing disability in the workplace?
Additional Note:One big misconception I hear often is that you can’t ask for an accommodation after you’ve been on the job for some amount of time. That’s just not true whether you have a hidden or visible disability. You may ask for an accommodation anytime from the application process through the entire span of your employment. If you work at a company for thirty years and on year thirty and a day, you decide you need an accommodation, that company is obligated to begin the accommodation process.