Multiple Sclerosis: Plan Your Workplace Disclosure Strategy
After you’ve decided to disclose your multiple sclerosis (MS) at work, it’s important to plan your strategy carefully. Follow these steps for a smooth disclosure:
Figure out who’s the best person at work to talk to.
You may need to talk to your boss, someone in the human resources department, or maybe your project manager. The answer will differ depending on your work setting. Your goal is to get the information to the people who need to know, not to be a source of office gossip.
Plan your disclosure statement with someone who is knowledgeable about the provisions of the ADA.
A National MS Society staff person can provide guidance for the disclosure process. You can request assistance by calling (800) FIGHT-MS. You can also discuss disclosure issues with someone at the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) at (800) 526-7234. After you have your strategy all figured out, rehearse it several times with a couple of family members or friends.
Make your disclosure, but stick with the minimum amount of information that will get you what you need.
If you’re planning to ask for an accommodation, the law only requires that you provide some verification from your physician that you have a disability. Technically, you aren’t even required at the outset to say that you have multiple sclerosis. In reality, though, most employers want more details.
If your employer asks for more information, including your diagnosis, you may not have a whole lot of options. After you disclose your diagnosis, you need to be prepared to help the person understand what MS is and how it affects you. And you have to keep explaining if your situation changes over time. Be open to questions — this is an educational process.
In making your disclosure, you’re letting your employer or prospective employer know that you have a condition that affects you at work and that with the appropriate accommodations you can excel at the job.