Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Disclosing Disability in Job Interview

The Legal Reality: Meredith on the Job by Helen M. Russon, Esq. is the continuing story of Meredith, a 32-year-old certified public accountant who was recently diagnosed with a chronic disease, multiple sclerosis (M.S.).

In this segment of the story, we learn how Meredith handled a tough question during her job interview, “We need dependable people here. Can you tell us how much time you missed from work last year because of illness?” Meredith's level of M.S. is referred to as relapsing-remitting, meaning she has spans of time in which she expereinces more disability than other times. For that reason, she answered the question, "I was sick a couple of times, but not for very long. And I made it all up through overtime." Her answer was honest without disclosing her M.S.

Meredith won the job but later faced the problem of how to maneuver a lot of stair climbing at work. She researched her legal rights for requesting "reasonable accomodations," using the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) as her guide. Despite knowing her legal rights, she was concerned that asking for an accomodation might limit her ability to advance in her job at that firm.

From the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC), she found “Enforcement Guidance on Pre-employment Disability-Related Questions and Medical Exams,” where she learned the interview question should not have been asked. But if she had refused to respond to the question, perhaps she would not have gotten the job.

Russon's article concludes:
The legal reality is that the world of work is ambiguous—and right now the culture of her workplace may be Meredith’s only guide as to what to expect next.

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