To disclose your disability in a job application or not to disclose your disability in a job application — that is the question that many women, including FGB'ers, are asking.
"Should I disclose my disability?" an anonymous FGB'er asked the FGB Community. "I was diagnosed as bi-polar when I was 13. I have been through hell and back with it. When I was 17, my parents were told I would never finish college or hold a full-time job. I did and I have held the same full-time job, as well as multiple side jobs, for over eight years. I have become somewhat of an advocate for surviving a devastating mental health diagnosis. However, when I began applying for jobs a few months ago, I felt like I had to lie when they ask if I have a disability. Bi-polar is a clearly listed option, and I have been flatly denying it. Even though I am living with it and thriving. I feel like no one would hire me if I were truthful. But I also feel terrible for lying; that is not how I live my life. Will I be tossed in the trash heap if I start filling this out truthfully?"
Fearful of facing discrimination if you share your disability — whether that's bi-polar disorder or something else entirely? Here's what women are saying about whether or not to talk about it in job applications.
1. Consider how the question about your disability is asked of you.
"How was the question worded?" asks cms1234.
If the question was simply asked as: "Do you have a disability?" and you're asked to check a box, you can answer no and move on like you did or answer yes and skip the checkboxes.
"When asked, state politely and confidently that you don't go into details regarding your health-related issues," says cms1234.
Or you can answer yes and state that you will discuss with HR when hired, as you may need intermittent FMLA.
"Bipolar or other mental health conditions can and do have a stigma to employers — not fair, but they do," says cms1234. "Hold your head up and go forth. You've got this."
2. Don't disclose your disability until after you're hired.
"I am not diagnosed with bi-polar, but instead I have a documented learning disability," shares an anonymous FGB'er. "In any event, I don't like to disclose that I have a learning disability until after I get hired for a position."
3. Share that you have a disability in case employers can help you in some way.
"I have been diagnosed with mental health issues for years, and it hasn’t seemed to impact my employability," adds D Anne Coleman. "I always check the YES box. I’ve assumed like the person above that perhaps they need to meet a diversity quota. I’ve never been further questioned about my disability in an interview or at the workplace."
"I always check yes [for this reason, too]," says monicachay. "Also, it makes it so that HR will reach out to you about reasonable accommodations."
Others rely on HR accommodations, too.
"I have a brain injury, diagnosed when I was 40 — probably got it when I was four years old," shares Gwyn Leder. "Under the Americans with Disability Act, if you don't disclose the disability, the employer cannot accommodate you. I have found that if you disclose your disability at time of hire is better than disclosing in the interview process."
Besides, checking the yes box doesn't seem to hurt even if it doesn't necessarily help.
"In most companies, the data collected for the EEOC is not included in the actual application file that the recruiter reads (some applications spell this out, and some do not; some require the information, and some do not)," adds Kristen Yealy. "I have PTSD and am also a huge advocate for mental health awareness in the workplace, and my encouragement to you would be that I have checked yes to this in all of my job applications over the last few months, got plenty of interviews, and landed a job with one of those companies! I admire your commitment to making sure that you're living your values even in this area."
4. Choose not to disclose whether or not you have a disability.
"They can ask, but you legally have the right to not answer," says MichelleW. "It is illegal for them to demand the information."
You will likely have the option to keep your disability to yourself.
"If you are applying to a large company, the online application form always includes the opportunity to disclose a disability — which probably includes 3 options, yes, no and prefer not to disclose," says RRDay. "It does not obligate you in any way to disclose."
After all, not disclosing isn't lying.
"I declined because I didn’t want to lie, and it’s within my rights to not disclose," says DTMN. "Most companies will ask you again once they hire you. You could answer yes once you are hired if you are comfortable."
5. Research the company's history with people with disabilities.
"As part of your research, you could explore the employer's history with people with disabilities," suggests Lynne Cogan. "Have there been lawsuits against the employer? Are there statistics on who they hire? Is there anything on Glassdoor about their practices regarding people with disabilities? And during the informational interviews, you might be able to get more specific information — individual experiences."
6. Be honest about your disabilities to help educate employers.
"What I can say, on behalf of the hundreds of employers and organizations that I work with for disability inclusion, is that they sincerely are interested in creating a more inclusive candidate experience and workplace," adds s.mcmullen. "Many recognize that it will take time and even admit that they are not at the level of representation or inclusion of disability that they would like to be."
That said, one of the things that has to happen for change to occur, is that employers need candidates and current employees to "have the courage to self-disclose and/or self-identify," she says.
"Otherwise, they have no idea what the current level of representation is within the organization and how they could create accommodations proactively, or ensure they are prepared to provide support if needed," she explains.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.