How to Disclose Your Health Issues to Your Employer

by / ⠀Health & Fitness / December 15, 2022
health issues

Medical conditions can sometimes cause complications with a person’s job. You may need to take time off for personal reasons more frequently or have workplace considerations others don’t have. Do you have to disclose your health issues to your employer? Here’s everything you need to know.

1. Start a Voluntary Conversation

Federal and state laws prevent employers from demanding personal health information from their employees. If you feel pressured to talk about your medical conditions, you don’t have to say anything. However, when disclosing health information is necessary to do your job better, the conversation should always be voluntary and without pressure.

2. Submit an HR Form

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prevents employers from making hiring decisions based on medical conditions. It also legally blocks them from retaliating against workers who disclose health issues after getting hired. There’s no timeline to disclose health information because it’s not required.

Talk with someone in your Human Resources (HR) department or send them an email requesting a medical condition disclosure form. They likely have one on file. If not, they’ll guide you through a procedure that takes every consideration into account to make you comfortable while updating your boss.

3. Request an HR Representative

The conversation about your health issues will happen between you and your employer. It’s a private subject, so you’ll likely speak in a conference room without anyone else around.

Your boss can’t legally fire you for any disclosures, but that doesn’t prevent people from making prejudiced judgments or rude comments. If you’re uncomfortable with having the conversation alone, you can always request an HR representative. The department may also require one automatically. Either way, you’ll have a witness to everything that happens, which is helpful when conversations don’t occur in writing.

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4. Discuss Potential Accommodations

The crucial part of disclosing your health issues to your employer is working with them to establish accommodations that make your job more manageable. You’re the best person to advocate for your needs, so research your options before the meeting to present possibilities confidently.

You could request an adjusted work schedule to come into the office later or take a nap during your remote work day if your condition keeps you from sleeping. It’s a beneficial step for anyone with migraines since sleep relieves most headaches by minimizing your brain’s external stimulation.

Other standard workplace accommodations include dress code exceptions, auditory processing software, or additional wheelchair ramps for easier accessibility. It depends on what’s most challenging during the workday and which diagnoses you have.

5. Provide a Doctor’s Notice

Some employers may require a doctor’s notice along with ADA accommodations. They’ll still provide them, but they’ll likely want the document on file for recordkeeping purposes. Your doctor can easily give this with a quick email. It doesn’t have to include any confidential information other than your doctor validating the specific health issues you brought to your employer’s attention.

6. Request Complete Privacy

It’s natural to feel nervous about this important conversation. Your HR department will keep your information confidential, but people still talk. There’s nothing wrong with asking your employer to keep your medical condition private if you’re uncomfortable with people knowing.

You’ll feel more at peace once you’ve voiced your concerns and heard their support for your wishes. It’s one thing to know how the law protects your privacy, but it’s another to listen to your employer agree with your concerns.

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7. Plan a Check-In Meeting

You may suggest accommodations during your initial meeting with your employer without trying them before. The solutions may not help as much as you predicted for various reasons. It’s always helpful to schedule a check-in meeting with your boss or an HR representative to review how the accommodations work and if you need new ones.

Seeking better solutions is a normal part of establishing the most helpful workplace accommodations. No one can predict the future and no employer would expect you to correctly guess what you need without trying something first. Frequent check-ins will ensure an open line of communication and continual progress so you can thrive in your workplace.

8. Remember Your Resources

You may feel more empowered knowing what you can do if your employer discriminates against your health conditions. First, you can file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will investigate the account and if they find evidence of discrimination, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit or two years if it’s a matter of equal pay.

The most important thing to remember is you aren’t alone in this process. HR representatives and the law are on your side. If your employer is unwilling to accommodate you or discriminates against you, an EEOC representative will speak with you about becoming a mediator and potentially seeking legal repercussions to make things right.

Disclose on Your Terms

No one should ever disclose medical information to their employer because they feel forced or judged. If and when you think it’s necessary and want to inform your boss about your health status, use these steps to proceed confidently. You’ll know how to start the conversation, find solutions and potentially seek legal counsel if necessary.

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About The Author

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Ava Roman is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you'll find her in a yoga class, advocating for her children, or doing her part to save the planet.

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