Talking About MS With Employers
Depending on the professional relationship you have with your employer, you may or may not choose to tell him or her about your MS. Legally, you are not required to disclose your diagnosis unless you are asking for job accommodation. Even then, you are only required to describe the limitations you may have in carrying out certain essential tasks of the job and you do not have to disclose the diagnosis or nature of the illness. Additionally, if you need to take some time off work because of your MS, your doctor does not need to indicate your diagnosis on the medical note to your employer. You may want to ask yourself the following questions to help you decide what, who and when to tell about your diagnosis:
Do I currently have any barriers or challenges in performing my job due to MS?
Are there any accommodations I can make to my work space that will help me overcome these barriers? (For example, bringing a portable fan to work or requesting a phone head set etc.)
If you don’t have any symptoms that impact your job currently and you don’t need any special accommodations that require a supervisor's approval (moving work stations or working from home part-time for example), you may also consider putting off disclosing your diagnosis.
If you do decide to disclose your diagnosis you may choose to share a copy of MS in the Workplace: An Employer’s Guide to help guide the conversation. Be prepared for the discussion and spend some time explaining your symptoms and how you manage them. Few people understand that MS can also involve ‘invisible’ symptoms.
In addition, before you disclose any information about your MS or symptoms to your employer or colleagues:
- Find out about your rights concerning disclosure.
- Consider the possible consequences of making your diagnosis public. Once you tell people, you can’t take it back.
- Learn about various job accommodations – workplace changes that make it easier for you to do your job.
- Seek emotional support and technical advice from other people with MS through your local chapter or division MS Society office or online MS community.