Disclosure Frequently Asked Questions
Disclosure is a common concern for people with MS. It is a difficult, very personal and emotional decision that requires significant thought and knowledge.
Disclosing to an employer can have legal and job related implications that can be ongoing so there are many issues to consider. There may be good reasons to disclose and benefits from doing so. However, once information isdisclosed, it can never be taken back, so it’s important to make certain that telling does benefit you.
Do I need to disclose my MS on an interview?
There is no reason to disclose during an interview unless you are requesting an accommodation in order to do the job for which you are applying.
The only time you need to disclose both during an interview and afterwards is when you are requesting an accommodation or need time off for medical reasons. At this point your employer will need medical documentation as to the reason for your request and it is possible at that time your diagnosis will be disclosed. Your doctor can state that you are being treated for a medical condition which causes extreme fatigue for example, but if the employer is not convinced that you have a disability that is covered under the ADA they do have the right to ask for additional information. Information they do obtain is to be kept in a file separate from your personnel file.
Can an employer ask about my MS on an interview? How should I respond if asked?
When you interview for a job, your prospective employer is supposed to ask questions that are related to the job you are applying for, whether it’s on the job application, in the interview, or during the testing process. Interview questions should be focused on what the employer needs to know to determine whether you can perform the essential functions of the job.
An employer may ask whether you can perform the job-related functions of the position for which you are applying, as long as they don’t phrase the questions in terms of a disability. For example, if driving is a function of the job, the employer may ask if you have a driver’s license. However, they may not ask if you have a visual disability that would prevent you from driving.
Employers may ask:
• if you have any conditions that would keep you from performing the specific tasks of the job applied for,
• if you take illegal drugs
• how you’ll perform a job function if they know you have a disability
• what reasonable accommodation you’ll need, if you have an obvious disability or disclose
• how often you need breaks and what length they need to be, if you have an obvious disability or disclose.
If asked an improper question, you have a few options:
• Answer the question- however, keep in mind that if you provide this information, you may jeopardize your chances of getting hired. There may be legal recourse available to you, but this is not the preferred outcome for most job applicants.
• Refuse to answer the question-, depending on how the refusal is phrased, you run the risk of appearing uncooperative or confrontational and losing the job. Again, there may be legal recourse, but this is hardly an ideal situation.
• Examine the question for its intent and respond with an answer as it might apply to the job. For example, if the interviewer asks, Why are you in a wheel chair or why do you use a cane? You could respond with a question to them “what are your concerns? I can assure you that I have the qualifications to perform the “essential functions of the job”
• Some people feel more comfortable saying something like, although I have difficulty walking it will not interfere with my job in any way.
Can an employer ask disabilty related questions after a job offer?
After a job offer, an employer may ask any disability-related questions and conduct job-related medical examinations as long as the employer does this for everyone in the same job category. An employer may withdraw an offer from an applicant with a disability only if it becomes clear that he or she cannot do the essential functions of the job or would pose a direct threat (a significant risk of substantial harm) to the health or safety of him/herself or others. The determination cannot be based on generalizations about the condition. The employer must be sure there are not any reasonable accommodations that could be taken first.
(Any exam results must be kept strictly confidential, except medical/safety personnel may be informed if emergency medical treatment is required and supervisors may be informed about necessary job accommodations, based on exam results.)
The same questions can be asked on a job application.
If you encounter an illegal question on a written job application you may leave the question blank and try to deal with it in the interview as mentioned above.
When should I tell my employer about my MS?
There is no reason you need to disclose unless you are requesting an accommodation in order to be able to do the job for which you are applying or need time off for medical reasons. At this point your employer may require you to provide documentation that is sufficient to prove that you have a disability covered under the ADA and your need for the requested accommodation. Documentation needs to describe the nature, severity, and duration of your impairment, the job related activity or activities that the impairment limits, and the extent to which the impairment limits your ability to perform the activity or activities. The documentation also needs to support your need for the accommodation in order to do your job.
Your doctor could write that you are being treated for a medical condition which causes extreme fatigue for example, but if the employer is not convinced that you have a disability that is covered under the ADA they do have the right to ask for additional information and it is always possible your diagnosis will be disclosed.
Aside from disclosing for requesting an accommodation or time off, there are those individuals who feel they want their employer to know for many other reasons. One thing to consider, if you don’t need to tell and yet you feel you want your employer to know then you may want to wait until you have worked for a while and have shown the kind of worker you are, and how your medical condition will not interfere with your ability to do your job. Although we know that MS is unpredictable, if you are doing well, there is no reason to assume that will not continue.
If I decide to disclose to my new employer, how long should I wait to tell?
That is something you will have to judge once you are on the job. Six months generally pushes you beyond most evaluation periods and might be a sufficient amount of time for your supervisor to have a good sense of you and the quality of your work. You need to get a feel for the organization, how flexible they are with other employees, do they make accommodations, do they allow people time to pick up their children or work from home when needed? If they make accommodations for others then they are more likely to make them for you.
If they are rigid and inflexible then you may not have an understanding employer and may want to think twice before disclosing before you need to.
There are many issues to consider when trying to make this decision. Utilize the Workplace Disclosure Interactive Assistant on the MS Society website and explore the pros and cons of your situation. There is no one right answer as it’s up to each individual to decide what is in their best interest.
If I tell my employer will my information be confidential?
If you told your human resources department, they are required to keep your medical information confidential and documentation must be kept in a file separate from your personnel file. You should speak with them to be assured that it will.
If you have some type of accommodation, then your immediate supervisor may need to be told that you have a reasonable accommodation but they do not need to know that it’s for MS. They are also required to keep this information confidential.
However, if you have told colleagues, they are not under any legal obligation to maintain confidentiality.
If I decide to disclose, how do I go about it?
Regardless of your reason for disclosure, it would be helpful to develop a script of what you want to say, consult with someone knowledgeable regarding your rights and the disclosure process, then practice with someone so that you go into your disclosure meeting with confidence. If you are disclosing because you need an accommodation it is advisable to have your accommodation request in writing and medical documentation to back up the need for your request. Check the accommodations section of our website for more details on the reasonable accommodation process.