If you choose to keep completely mum about your cancer diagnosis at work, you’ll be in good company. Grover Cleveland had a surgery for oral cancer in 1893, while serving as President of the United States, and nobody heard anything about it until 1917. President Woodrow Wilson had a serious stroke in 1919, and the country was basically run by First Lady Edith Wilson for the next two years. JFK flat out denied having Addison’s disease during his 1960 bid for the White House. Just like you, presidential candidates have no legal obligation to tell their employers (their constituents) about their medical health.
Generally, while you have no obligation to disclose, there are some instances where you might find it beneficial to share some information about your medical condition with an employer or potential employer. This is a very personal choice. The important thing to realize is that you have a choice. Triage Cancer participated in a free webinar about disclosure, privacy, and online brand.
There are also some instances where you could inadvertently stumble into a disclosure. For instance, if you want to use the ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act to request a reasonable accommodation at work, your employer will likely ask you to have your doctor fill out a medical certification form. Employers can create their own medical certification forms and can ask you about your diagnosis. If you are not interested in sharing a cancer diagnosis with your employer, you only need to share enough medical information to show that you are eligible for the reasonable accommodation that you are asking for. So you could talk about side effects that you are experiencing without talking about a cancer diagnosis. But it is important to talk with your health care team about your disclosure decisions, before you ask them to complete your form.
Another law you might want to use is the FMLA, or Family and Medical Leave Act. This law allows to take time off, unpaid, without the fear of losing your job. This law also allows an employer to ask for a medical certification form to be filled out by a member of your health care team. Even though the U.S. Department of Labor has created a model form for employers to use, some employers create their own forms and may ask for more information than they are entitled to have.
To help you navigate these decisions, Triage Cancer has some created some new, informative Quick Guides:
As always, knowledge is power, so get informed.