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Youth, Disclosure and the Workplace

disclosureYoung adults with mental health conditions are often faced with the decision of whether to disclose their condition to an employer. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. This section is designed to help you make the decision that works best for you when it comes to disclosing your mental health condition to your employer.

Disclosure Protections and Responsibilities

As a person with a mental health condition, you have disclosure protections as well as significant responsibilities to yourself and to your employers.

You are entitled to:

  • Have information about your mental health condition treated confidentially and respectfully;
  • Seek information about hiring practices from any organization;
  • Choose to disclose your mental health condition at any time during the employment process;
  • Receive reasonable accommodations for an interview;
  • Be considered for a position based on your skill and merit; and
  • Have respectful questioning about your mental health condition for the purpose of determining whether you need accommodations and if so, what kind.

You have the responsibility to:

  • Disclose your need for any work-related reasonable accommodations;
  • Bring your skills and merits to the table; and
  • Be truthful, self-determined and proactive.

Why Disclose in the Workplace?

When you leave school and enter the workforce, many aspects of your life change. One major consideration in disclosure is that by doing so you may request reasonable work accommodations from your employer.

In school if you had an individualized education program (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), information about your mental health condition and the accommodations you needed followed you from grade to grade. When you enter the workforce, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act may protect you from mental health-related discrimination and provide you with the right for reasonable accommodations. Yet, you must disclose your mental health condition to your employer to benefit from the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. Under federal law, your employer is only required to provide work-related accommodations if you disclose your protected disability to the appropriate individuals.

It is important to note that the ADA applies to individuals with mental health conditions that substantially limit one or more major life activities such as learning, thinking, concentrating, interacting with others, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks or working.

When to Disclose Your Mental Health Condition

There is no "right" time or place to disclose your disability. It is best to select a confidential place and allow enough time for your employer to ask questions. It's also best not to dwell on the limitations of your disability. You should weigh the pros and cons of disclosure at each point of the job search, recruitment and hiring process and make the decision to discuss your disability when it is appropriate for you.  Consider the following stages for when you may wish to disclose your mental health condition:

  • In a letter of application or cover letter;
  • Before an interview;
  • At the interview;
  • In a third-party phone call or reference;
  • Before any drug testing;
  • After you have a job offer;
  • During your course of employment; or
  • Never.

Employers may not ask questions about mental health conditions on a job application or at any time before making a job offer.

How to Disclose your Mental Health Condition

Preparation is essential for disclosing your disability. Effective disclosure requires that you discuss your needs and that you provide practical suggestions for reasonable job accommodations, if they are needed. One way to become comfortable with discussing your disability is to find someone you trust and practice the disclosure discussion with that person. The two of you can put together a disclosure script. It should contain relevant information about your mental health condition while also weaving in your strengths. Always keep it positive!

What to Disclose About Your Mental Health Condition

There is no required information to share about your mental health condition. In fact, it will be different for everyone. Generally, if you choose to disclose, it is most helpful to share the following:

  • General information about your mental health condition;
  • Why you are disclosing your mental health condition;
  • How your mental health condition affects your ability to perform some of your key job tasks;
  • Types of accommodations that have worked for you in the past; and
  • Types of accommodations that you anticipate needing in the workplace.

To Whom to Disclose Your Mental Health Condition

You may wish to disclose your mental health condition on a "need-to-know" basis. Provide further details about your mental health condition as it applies to your work-related accommodations to the individual who has the authority to facilitate your accommodation request. Consider disclosing to the supervisor responsible for the hiring, promoting and/or firing of employees. This person needs to be informed of your mental health-related needs if you request reasonable accommodations to provide the necessary supports and to fairly judge your job performance.

Adapted from the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s fact sheet, Youth, Disclosure, and the Workplace. Available at http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/ydw.htm.

Comments

  • Learning2Live Apr 12th

    I know in health care professions, on the licensure application, many states ask about physical and mental health issues and substance abuse/chemical dependency. The applicant can often be penalized if they lie and do not disclose their illness; then, the Board finds out by the applcant/licensee seeking in-patient treatment (voluntarily or involuntarily) and a physician tells the Board.

    The applicant's/licensee's health/substance abuse information is then made public online on the health professions website. So, unfortunately, sometimes, people do not have that option to decide whether to disclose or not. I know that is the exception to the rule and most jobs/careers do not require disclosure. I just wanted to inform though.