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How Honest Should I Be About a Disability?

by Anonymous

What advice do you have for someone in regards to disclosing a disability or injury to a potential employer?

ANSWER: I am a big believer in honesty being the best policy. I'm saying don't lie. Because secrets have a way of coming out eventually, and if your new employer finds out you weren't honest from the outset, then your future with them and other employers could be affected.

That being said, however, you are not under any obligation to volunteer information that is not relevant to the job. You don't necessarily have to volunteer every last bit of personal information either, if it's not relevant. For instance, you don't have to tell a prospective employer how much you weigh, whether you're divorced, how old you are or how many children you have.

So, if a former disability/injury is not going to interfere with you being able to do the job you're applying for, and they don't ask, I don't think you necessarily have to volunteer the information. But if they ask directly, "Have you ever had a back injury?", then you should be honest. Or, if they ask, "Is there anything that would prevent you being able to lift and carry 50 pounds?" or some such, again, you must be honest.

By law (Americans with Disabilities Act), employers cannot discriminate against prospective employees merely because they have a disability or injury history. They are required to make "reasonable accommodation", which means that if you could still do the job with some sort of adaptation and you are the best candidate in other ways as well, then they should hire you.

However, if you can't perform the essential duties of a job, even with reasonable accommodation, then they have no obligation to consider you for the job. For example, if an essential duty of the job was driving (such as a bank courier), and you were blind, then reasonable accommodation wouldn't cut it.

But another example might be... if you had a past back injury from a car accident that affects your ability to lift, stand for long periods, or be agile, but the job you're applying for is a desk job that places little or no strain on your back, you might not need to mention the injury. It's probably not relevant.

Please note... this is just general advice... I am not a lawyer and I do not know the details of your situation. So, use your best judgment and/or get legal advice if needed.

I hope that helps!

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