Deciding How Much to Tell
Once you have decided to whom you want to disclose, your next step is to decide how much information to share. You may decide to share some or all of the information about your MS. Consider the following options when making this important decision.
- When requesting time off or an accommodation, it is your right under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to state only that you have a medical or neurological condition. You are not required to say that you have MS.
- However, if the information you provide is not sufficient to determine that you have a qualified disability under the ADA, your employer has the right to ask for more detailed information — which may lead to disclosure of your diagnosis. Since state and local definitions of disability may differ, it is worth your while to check with state and local human rights offices.
- Partial disclosure leaves the door open to speculation on the part of those you have told; they may wonder what you’re hiding and make incorrect assumptions based on incomplete information.
- Without an accurate understanding of MS, your employer may jump to the conclusion that you are unable to handle increased responsibility and pass you up for promotion.
- Full disclosure gives you the opportunity to educate your employer about MS and how it has impacted you, and opens the door to communicate your needs as they come up. The National MS Society (1-800-344-4867) can provide you with education materials for your employer.
- Full disclosure also eliminates any speculation regarding your condition.
- You may find that you get the support and assistance you need as well as welcome relief from the stress of hiding your condition.
Bottom Line: Although you may wish to give as little information as possible, partial disclosure may not be sufficient when requesting an accommodation or medical leave. Your employer may request additional information to determine that you have a disability that qualifies under the ADA—which may lead to disclosure of your diagnosis.