Disclosing one’s Multiple Sclerosis to your employer is one of the most difficult decisions people with MS face. You need to consider carefully before making the decision to do so, as it has legal and job related implications that can be ongoing. When disclosing to an employer, there are many issues to consider. There may be good reasons to disclose and benefits from doing so. However, once information is given, it can never be taken back, so it’s important to make certain that telling does benefit you. If you are disclosing because you need an accommodation or need to take medical leave, these are reasons that require some level of disclosure. However, some people choose to disclose just for the sake of disclosing. This may reduce their stress level or make them feel more comfortable asking for accommodations in the future when or if their symptoms change.
Whatever your decision, know your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (www.ada.gov) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (Department of Labor: www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/) as well as your local human rights laws. Familiarize yourself with your company’s time and leave policies as well as short- or long-term disability plan requirements. There are several key issues to consider – who at work needs to know, when does your employer need to know, why would your employer need to know, and what do they need to know? Disclosing to your employer is something that might need to be revisited throughout your time working with MS, whether with the same employer or a new one. Planning ahead is key, as knowledge is power and this should help protect you should you decide to disclose.
Be sure to consider both the legal and practical sides of disclosure, the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure, components of a disclosure script, and resources available to help you navigate this important decision. These resources include the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), the National MS Society, and the National MS Society’s disclosure tool. Practicing your disclosure script is recommended. Being informed and planning ahead will put you in the best position for successful disclosure.