I recently read an article from Fast Company that addresses whether you should disclose information about your invisible illness to a potential employer when looking for a new job. That was the “gateway” article that lead me down the rabbit hole of googling other blogs/articles on this issue. Wow is there a lot of varying opinions out there!!! Thought BBNB should weigh in on this issue and how it relates to CFS / CFIDS and other Chronic Illnesses that tend to be Invisible to the uneducated eye.
First- KUDOS for continuing (or attempting to continue) a “normal” life while enduring chronic pain and/or chronic fatigue syndrome. These conditions affect all aspects of your life so don’t make light how hard “a normal 9-5 job” can be. In the article posted by Fast Company, the author (Professor of Psychology) says
“After all, everyone has issues in their personal lives that may affect their work performance. Potential employees may have young children or kids with special needs. They may have aging parents who need extra care. They may be going through a divorce. They may be active in nonprofit groups that take up a lot of their time outside of work.”
My initial response is NONE of those circumstances affect the potential employee physically or hinder them from doing a job or something they would choose to do themselves. HOWEVER, they are all valid life happenings that may take away from a employees performance. Another point made by the Professor is that
“…there is no reason to provide information that might get more weight than it deserves, just because the individuals evaluating applicants are in a mindset of rejection.”
Being a business owner, I can personally understand where he is coming from on this. I’ve received over 100 applications for 1 position before and my task is to eliminate over 75% of those initially based on criteria. So when an employer/HR Director is in that mindset, it may not be a good time to add something to a socially conceived “negative” column.
Having also been a chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic pain sufferer for 14 years, I also understand what it is like to hide my disability, work countless hours to get something done to my “normal” standards and to be in and out of jobs because I get too tired to continue a rigorous work schedule with the same company for long periods of time. I kept my illness to myself for almost a decade, taking work breaks to sleep in the car, lying to my employer about sick days, family emergencies, etc to cover up my inability to get out of bed and come into work. Going through all that and THEN continuing to need to have an income is exhausting; both emotionally and physically. So I understand the desire to want to be upfront from the vey beginning about a condition you may have that would prevent you from doing specific tasks.
The article goes on to site the Americans With Disabilities Act and when the best time to site that with an employer is. I tend to agree that this act is a defense against an employer’s action rather than a proactive stance a potential employee can use to their advantage.
In summary of this Fast Company article, I would say it has valid points from a potential employers point of view but lacks the knowledge of what it is like from the potential employees side that is dealing with the actual disability.
Everyday Health recently released an article written from more of a patient’s perspective that has a list of things to consider before disclosing a disability. Knowing all the facts will help you make a more informed decision. The author, Katrina Overland, goes on to note:
“It’s always some kind of risk, and it’s hard to know if your employer will treat you fairly. It might be hard to prove discrimination during the hiring process. The decision is even more difficult to make if the details of your rights under the ADA are unknown or hazy.”
A VERY VALID POINT! And one the other articles I have read do not address. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not clearly defined in the Disability Act and Fibromyalgia is incredibly new to the disabilities list and therefore still has a lot of grey room in the discrimination element.
Again, in my opinion, I would use the Disability Act as a reactionary resource and not something you can rely on while going into a new employment situation.
Overall this article did a great job of presenting a patient’s perspective on the challenges of interviewing with an Invisible Illness.
And yet another perspective comes from a NY Times article written in 2013 about a woman’s struggle to secure a job because she hid her disability. While this particular article is about a woman with hearing loss, and others with a array of mental illnesses, it can be directly applied to most invisible illnesses in the hiring process scenario. My favorite quote from this article is from John Waldo, the founder, advocacy director and counsel to the nonprofit Washington State Communication Access Project:
“…Put bluntly, the problem is not so much that people are mean, but rather, that people are clueless.”
We would LOVE if your provided your comments or personal experiences with job searching and hiring process in the comments section below.
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