In today’s economy, finding a job is challenging for anyone. The job search requires a significant amount of preparation and motivation to overcome the obstacles that may confront you. Now think about what challenges a job-seeker with a disability may need to face. Workers with disabilities deal with anything from needing to know whether or not they should disclose that they have a disability, when and how to disclose, requesting accomodations, and what rights they have as an individual with a disability. The Disability and Disclosure workshop at RochesterWorks! and the resources provided can help to inform and prepare you for a successful job search and future employment. From this workshop, we have compiled this list of 10 Things To Know About Disabilities and Disclosure in the Workplace:
#1) The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not the only act/law protecting workers with disabilities; the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the Family Medical Leave Act also protect workers. The ADA and NYSHRL prohibit employer discrimination in hiring procedures, firing/layoffs, advancement, and all employment-related activities. The Family Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year and requires employers to maintain employee health benefits during their leave.
#2) Who is protected? According to the ADA/NYSHRL, an individual with a disability is protected if they have a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more life activites (hearing, seeing, speaking, breathing, walking, learning, etc). A qualified job applicant/employee can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accomodation.
#3) Reasonable Accomodations are modifications or adjustments to a job, the work environment or the usual procedures that enables a qualified individual with a disability to perform the job. Examples include adding a bathroom railing, modifying a work schedule, adding a ramp, making existing facilities accessible, etc.
#4) It is your responsibility (not your employer’s) to suggest the reasonable accomodation you need. The Job Accomodation Network (JAN) is a helpful, free resource that can work with you to determine reasonable accomodations. JAN can be contacted at 1-800-526-7234 or at their website: www.jan.wu.edu
#5) Employers are only required to accommodate a known disability of a qualified employee. This means that you have to disclose that you are an individual with a disability who needs an accomodation; however…
#6) You DO NOT need to disclose what your disability is. There is no need to provide your diagnosis to your employer, it is your own personal choice if you would like to disclose your disability. You are only expected to request accomodations (verbally or in writing) that you may need stating that you are an individual with a disability.
#7) Employers can ask disability-related questions and require medical exams IF:
-All entering employees in the same job category are subjected to the same, regardless of disability status
-All information obtained is kept confidential
#8) If you can perform the job functions without needing accomodations, you do not need to disclose that you are an individual with a disability. Focus on your skills and abilities; it is not necessary to disclose that you have a disability if your disability does not impact your work.
#9) When to disclose/pros of disclosure: Disclosure may be appropriate if the employer will see the disability as a positive (example: working in a position that serves clients with disabilities), if accomodations are needed for the interview, if you have an disability that will affect job functions. Disclosing can reduce stress, clear the air, and make you feel more comfortable.
#10) Things to consider before you disclose: How will it benefit you?Do you need accomodations? Will disclosing make you feel more or less comfortable? Think carefully before you disclose your disability.
In order to learn more please attend the Disability and Disclosure workshop at RochesterWorks! In addition to this information, the workshop specialist also provided additional resources for individuals with disabilites, a sample accomodation request letter, and further guidles for appropriate disclosure. Our workshop calendars can be found at the following website: http://www.rochesterworks.org/js_workshops_downtown.aspx