Dear Career Tips: When To Reveal Medical Issues
From Career Tips, 2019 Volume 10, October 2019
First, The Original Discussion
“Tammy” has about 10 years of customer service experience in the healthcare and insurance industries but has been out of the workforce for many years. During that time, she was raising a family but she also was very sick at times. She is currently feeling well enough to go back to work on a very part time basis. She receives infusions weekly for 4 months every year, which are scheduled. However, she deals with chronic pain and occasionally needs to be hospitalized. She also cannot sit for long periods of time without being able to get up and walk around or stretch.
Tammy recently had interviews with two companies for part time customer service positions. She did not mention her illness during the interview. However, she is reluctant to accept a position without an employer knowing that she may have unpredictable, emergency absences. Should she divulge this information, and if so, when is the best time to do that?
Dear Unexpected Absences:
That’s a tough situation! As long as the job can be performed with reasonable accommodations by the employer, I don’t think there’s any need to bring it up prior to receiving a job offer. I believe it would be an ADA violation for them to withdraw the offer at that point, as long as a reasonable accommodation is possible.
I’d be inclined to also wait until she’s ready to accept the offer, ie, she’s had all her questions answered about benefits, etc. Then she could do it along the lines of:
“I’d be thrilled to accept this offer, as I believe I can do x, y and z for you. I did just want to be sure you know that I have a health condition that requires me to be able to get up and walk around or stretch every half hour or so, and may need to take unpaid time off for a couple of days every 4 months or so for maintenance. As long as that won’t be a problem, I’d be prepared to start as early as (next Monday).”
She could also consider talking to an employment attorney just to validate the ADA situation / requirements ahead of time. If she needs a name, I know of a couple.
Thank you for your input. I also advised her not to disclose the condition prior to receiving an offer. Another opinion I got here was for her to wait until she has an episode which would require her to be out. I have a feeling she is uncomfortable with that, though, and it doesn’t address the need to get up and stretch.
My Final Word:
My gut reaction is that waiting for an episode could be problematic. ADA protects from not being discriminated against in the hiring process, once the condition is disclosed. Non-disclosure might not have the same protection, and might put the job in jeopardy.
You make a good point about waiting to disclose. I think the proper time is upon acceptance. In reality, if a company cannot accommodate her, it may not be a place she wants to work.
Now, The Contrary Opinion
It bothers me that Tammy has to hide behind passive withholding of information while holding a legal cudgel behind her back with which to whack her prospective employer at the moment when the employer is most positively inclined toward her. That will scarcely make for a positive working relationship.
I think she should consider entering the gig economy instead of expecting a regular employer-employee working situation. Moreover, that employer will be livid if experience rated health insurance comes with the position.
Usually, I agree with you guys, but this one leaves me feeling very uncomfortable.
I hear you; it’s a very challenging situation all around. And I might look at it differently with a small employer vs. a large one.
His Final Word:
I remember when one employee of mine took maternity leave. We were a two person staff at the time, so I had to do her job as well as my own. I happily stayed late most nights to get it all done. She came back from maternity leave and quit the same day to be with her new offspring. It turned out that she planned to do that all along and only said she was coming back to get the benefits the company offered. Much later, she did come back, but do you think I ever again took her at her word. No way.
That was a big employer. It’s the hiring manager who is going to be hurt regardless of the size of the enterprise. Withholding information is a sure sign of flawed character and will be seen as such by everyone.
Integrity is our most sacred character attribute. This is a very intriguing issue that you’ve raised. I wonder how other readers are receiving the advice.