Returning to Work & Disclosure
Jul 29, 2004
Hello Nancy. I have made a marvelous recovery from my AIDS diagnosis two years ago and am considering a return to full-time work. I'm currently receiving ssdi benefits.
What obligations do I have, if any, to disclose my health status to a potential employer? The only accomodations I need is time to go to doctor visits, which aren't much different than any other employee. Personally I would prefer to disclose my status, but I don't want it to negatively impact my potential employer's willingness to hire me.
Response from Ms. Breuer
Oh, thank you, thank you for asking BEFORE you disclose.
You have no obligation to disclose your diagnosis to your employer.
If you do need time to make medical visits during working hours, then I suggest letting the prospective employer know that you need that accommodation, backing it up with a brief note from your health care provider. This alerts the employer to the fact that you're being truthful about the need, not just making it up. (Yes, I've seen that done, for months on end.) Make it clear that you understand that you'll need to make up the time.
Here's what the note could say: [Your name] is under my care for a chronic condition and must be seen in our offices every [whatever interval it is]. I request that you accommodate [your name] condition to allow continuity of care. [Your name] is otherwise able to fulfill the essential functions of the job.
If the doc is part of a well-known HIV practice, or an infectious disease practice, ask that the note be written on more generic stationery, such as a hospital letterhead. The "essential functions" language alerts the employer to the fact that you are under the protection of the ADA.
An interviewer might probe further as a result of this request, so be prepared with generic answers. "My condition is under control, and does not interfere with my work," for example. If I were you, I would not raise the subject unless you receive an offer. Only then does the accommodation become relevant.
I truly wish you well!
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