Career Advice

Talking to Your Employer About an Invisible Disability

The American Disabilities Act defines disability as any physical or mental impairment that significantly affects any significant lifestyle activity, such as performing manual skills, standing, and speaking. People with invisible disabilities have chronic illnesses, including autoimmune diseases, digestive problems, mental health issues, and cancer or epilepsy. Disabled people are sometimes accused of fabricating their conditions, especially those with chronic pain or sleep disorders.


Disability and Discrimination

Many people avoid disclosing their disability for fear of being discriminated against in their workplaces. They do not want to appear less competent than their peers, seen differently, or have different expectations from the rest of the world. Disclosing a disability could result in poor treatment at work or being perceived as making excuses. More than a third of persons with disabilities face prejudice in the workplace once they have a job. Workplace discrimination claims involving persons with disabilities accounted for the highest number of all EEOC complaints in 2021- over 37%.

Discrimination against persons with impairments, both visible and invisible, is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At no point in the job process may an employer discriminate against you because of your disability.


The Benefits of Disclosure

The National Institute on Disability advocates for disclosing your disability before a potential problem develops at work. It’s preferable to reveal your condition in good faith, with the company’s best interests in mind. This will help your employer facilitate any changes that may help you better manage your disability during the workday and thus perform better at your job.

If you wish to request an accommodation, you are not obligated by law to disclose your disability to an employer under the ADA. However, if you need to explain exceptional circumstances or ask for reasonable accommodations, you’ll most likely want to tell your employer about your disability. If you don’t ask for reasonable accommodations (provided that the request does not cause the employer undue hardship), your employer isn’t obligated to fulfill them under the ADA.


Disclosing an Invisible Disability

Your best course of action is to encourage a positive conversation and transparency (within reason) about your specific disability. This can happen anytime during the interviewing, hiring, or employment process. Make an appointment to meet in person and decide how much information you want to share with your employer about your disability. You may want to bring along a formal request in writing to the meeting. List all required adjustments and explain their necessity considering your current health and physical limitations.

Your employer will empathize if they understand more about your disability, why you may require accommodations, and how they can help. Offer your own solutions to any issues you are having at work, and your employer will likely help you implement any necessary changes. Determine how these modifications will benefit you and your work and how they will benefit the company.

It doesn’t matter what kind of disability or what kind of accommodations you ask for; you have a right to be treated equally. For information on how to submit a complaint and get legal assistance if you believe your employer has violated your rights, visit the US Department of Justice website.



(2022). Retrieved 7 June 2022, from

How to Disclose a Disability to Your Employer (and Whether You Should) (Published 2019). Retrieved 7 June 2022, from

Murray, J. (2022). How To Disclose a Disability to Your Employer. Retrieved 7 June 2022, from