Disclosing a Disability to an Employer: Your Rights
Elana Gross, Monster contributor | Wednesday, March 16th 2022
If you’re among the 12.7 percent of Americans that have a visible or invisible disability, you may have some questions about disclosing a disability to an employer in your resume, cover letter, or during the interview process—especially if you know you will need accommodations at some point during the hiring process and/or when you start work.
But do you have to disclose your disability by law? Should you? If you do mention your disability, when is the best time to bring it up?
You’re busy applying to jobs, so we did the research for you and spoke to experts to address some of the questions you may have.
By Law, Do You Have to Disclose Your Disability to an Employer?
No. You are not legally required to mention your disability while you’re being considered for a job. You do not need to disclose your disability on your resume, cover letter, or other application materials, or during an interview.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prevents eligible employers from discriminating against qualified job applicants and employees if they have a disability. (The law applies to state and local government employers and private employers with 15 or more employees.)
Under the law, someone is considered to have a disability if they have, have a record of having, or are perceived to have a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity” such as walking, hearing, seeing, speaking, learning, or completing manual tasks.
To be protected under the ADA, a candidate must meet the job requirements and be able to complete the “essential job functions” with or without a “reasonable accommodation.”
A reasonable accommodation is a change or modification to the work environment or way things are done that makes it accessible. For example, you could request for the employer to modify the hiring process by hosting the interview in an accessible space, providing an American Sign Language interpreter or reader, or offering you written materials in accessible formats.
You are not required to self-identify a disability on a job application or during an interview, even if you later disclose that you need reasonable accommodations.
An employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations unless they can show that it is an “undue hardship,” meaning there would be a “significant” difficulty or cost. However, they can’t refuse to provide a requested accommodation if there is some cost involved, and they must provide an alternative accommodation.
How Does the ADA Apply to the Hiring Process?
The law prohibits employers from asking “disability-related questions” or requiring medical examinations until they have made you a conditional offer. However, if you disclose that you have a disability or have a visible disability, an employer can ask for more information, but there are limits.
Employers are prohibited from asking invasive questions about your disability and should only ask questions about the accommodations you need and whether you’ll be able to complete the essential job responsibilities.
In those instances, the employer can ask you whether you can complete the essential job responsibilities with or without reasonable accommodations and for you to demonstrate or describe how you’d do it. Employers can’t refuse to hire you if you can’t complete nonessential job responsibilities.
There’s a Disability Question on a Job Application. What’s That About?
If you see a disability question on a job application, that’s not entirely unusual. Some companies have Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) survey questions at the end of an application to collect data that they are required to submit to the EEOC. The survey typically asks about the applicant’s gender, race, and whether they have a disability. The form should say that it is voluntary and provide you an option to decline answering.
Should You Disclose Your Disability to an Employer During the Hiring Process?
You know you don’t have to disclose, but should you? Granted, this might not be a choice for everyone. If you require a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process, the employer can ask why you need an accommodation and what you need. The employer may ask for “reasonable documentation.”(Check your state’s laws to see how much information employers can request.)
Jinny Kim, the director of the disability rights program at Legal Aid at Work, says the nonprofit legal services organization counsels clients to only disclose a disability:
- if you need a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process, such as when you are invited to an interview
- when you start the job
- at any point during your time at the company
Legal Aid at Work recommends that clients consider the potential benefits and downsides of disclosing. The benefits include receiving necessary accommodations and gaining support and, depending on the workplace, downsides may include a risk of stigma and harassment and a loss of privacy.
What Are the Best Practices for Disclosing a Disability to an Employer During the Hiring Process?
Typically, you only need to tell the employer that you have an ADA-protected disability and share the reasonable accommodations you are requesting. Some states may allow employers to ask you or your medical representative for a specific diagnosis.
Eve Hill, a disability rights attorney at the law firm Brown, Goldstein and Levy, says to explain to the employer how you’ll do the job, your past accomplishments, and that the accommodations you need are not difficult to implement.
What Are Some Ways to Tell If an Employer Is Inclusive?
Moeena Das, the Chief Operating Officer of National Organization on Disability, a nonprofit that increases work opportunities for people with disabilities, suggests checking whether the company website is accessible and includes an accessibility statement. Similarly, she recommends checking whether the company has an employee resource group (ERG) focused on disabilities and whether they have partnerships with disability organizations.
Start the Hiring Process with a Free Resume Review
Now that you know more about your rights and the process of disclosing a disability to an employer, you’re ready to begin preparing for the job search. Want some help with that? Start by polishing your resume with a free resume review from Monster. We can show you how to improve it so that you have a better chance of getting interview requests. It’s quick and easy (and did we mention free?) and can really make a difference.
This article is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice. Always seek the professional advice of an attorney regarding any legal questions you may have.
Originally Posted at https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/disclose-disability-on-resume