You can’t talk about Working and Health Activism (or working and living with a chronic condition) without discussing the topic of disclosure. Way back in March we talked all about health disclosure and the “do you tell?” question. Health Activists had a lot to say on this topic. Today Tayla shares a bit more into the decision-making process behind disclosure because, at the end of the day, it’s a personal, individual decision that you’ve got to make for yourself. –Amanda
Should You Disclose Health Information to Employers?
by Tayla Holman
One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make when you go back to work is whether to tell your boss about your health condition(s) or not. Ultimately it is your choice, and no one can tell you whether you should or should not. But before you do anything, you should weigh the benefits and consequences of disclosing your health information to your employer.
Why You Should:
If something should happen to you health-wise and you are unable to do your job, you don’t want your boss to think that you are simply underperforming. Of course, you want to tell them beforehand so it doesn’t look like you are trying to weasel your way out of disciplinary action.
Another reason to disclose your health information is that if your employer knows that you have a condition that may hinder your ability to do your job, he or she may decide to rework your responsibilities to accommodate any time off you may need. You might even be allowed to work from home, if possible.
Why You Shouldn’t:
If you feel that your condition is under control and will not have an effect on your ability to fulfill your work obligations, keeping it to yourself may be your best bet to avoid unnecessary discussion and commotion.
However, if you want to have your illness on record in the event that something does happen, you can go to human resources if you don’t want to speak to your boss directly. They can intervene on your behalf if you do end up needing to take time off.
If you’re still on the fence, remember that you have legal rights in case your employer isn’t understanding or respectful of your medical condition. The Family Medical Leave Act “entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.” According to the Department of Labor’s website, the FMLA allows eligible employees to take twelve workweeks of leave within a 12-month period for:
- the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
- the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
- to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
- a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
- any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
- Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin to the employee (military caregiver leave).
Employees are also protected under the Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act, which “provides federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information.” There is also the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA prevents employers from discriminating against disabled individuals throughout the job process, as well as with regards to hiring, firing, advancement, etc. Between these three acts, employees have several rights that protect them in case of a medical emergency.
What are some of the reasons you have or have not disclosed your health information to your employer? Have you had experience with FMLA, ADA, or HIPAA?
From one of my favorite websites, (dictionary.com):
1. to make known; reveal or uncover: to disclose a secret
2. to cause to appear; allow to be seen; lay open to view: In spring the violets disclose their fragrant petals.
The word “disclose” was first used right around the time of The Renaissance, an era of rebirth: artistic expression, intellectual transformation, and scientific advances. A time when people rose from the darkness of the past centuries and began opening themselves up to a new way of life. Now, whether this is a more romanticized version of what actually happened or not – the idea of a Renaissance from the Dark Ages fits perfectly with our March theme of Health Disclosure (and the upcoming first day of Spring!).
Once you open yourself up, share what you’re going through, and begin to connect with what’s going on around you – you are, in effect, being reborn. This, I would guess, is what many Health Activists felt the very first time they blogged about their condition, talked with fellow patients about common symptoms, or got that first “thank you, you’ve helped me so much” from a member of their communities.
For this month’s Health Activist Blog Carnival, let’s share our disclosure stories, our Health Activist Renaissance moments. Why did you first participate in a forum, support group, or blog? How did it feel to take ownership of your condition and begin to share with others? Was it a Renaissance of sorts or something less dramatic? How has your disclosure shaped your life since?
Write a post telling your disclosure story and why you would encourage others in your community to join you on the other side of disclosure. You could share how your online community helped you be more open, revealing more of yourself and your life. Or how your community has allowed a part of your to be seen, caused something to appear, or presented you open to view, perhaps? How has disclosing in your personal life influenced you?
Why not start with the completing the sentence “I disclose because…” or “I disclosed and…” see where the exercise takes you? If you’re feeling particularly like a spring violet – why not try a video entry this month? And, because we’re talking about the Renaissance so much – if you’re feeling particularly creative – you can make some form of art or poem that tells your disclosure story.
As always, once you’ve written, created, or recorded your entry – share with us! Either here in the comments section or as a link/upload in this discussion in the Health Bloggers Group. At the end of March we will highlight some of your stories and be a lot closer to our goal of creating valuable “disclosure” resources, tips, and advice for Health Activists.
Here’s our HABC graphic for you to add to your post if you’d like:
You were all so creative with February’s HABC – I can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with this month!