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Disclosure of Chronic Illness in the Workplace

Should you reveal health issues at work? Whom should you tell, and what should you say? Here’s how to handle these delicate questions.

There’s a long list of people you don’t have to talk to about your chronic illness, and your employer is one. Legally, you don’t have to disclose a single thing about your health—and you might not want to if your illness does not affect job performance. But there may come a day when you need to consider disclosure.

The legal perspective

Employees in the United States are not required to share information about their long-term or serious health conditions, such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart problems, chronic pain, cancer, HIV, and others. An employer does not have the right to request this information from a current or prospective employee. But it is your right to supply information about health issues that may affect your ability to work and to ask for reasonable accommodation, and the law requires the employer to be accommodating. Depending on circumstances, reasonable accommodations may include working from home, longer break times, ergonomic workstations, and other helpful measures.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits an employer from dismissing or failing to hire a chronically ill person on the basis of that illness or disability. Moreover, employers are required to reasonably accommodate an employee in order to make it easier for that employee to do his or her job. The definition of “reasonable accommodation” can be difficult to understand, so check the Department of Labor’s Accommodation website before speaking with your company’s human resources department.

Read more at UpWell.

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