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Why would anyone hide an illness at work?

Imagine this scenario…you’ve found your dream job, you are more than qualified to fill the position, you meticulously fill in each required field on the online application and then you reach the last section. Here, you are asked to check the box that describes your disability status. What do you do? To some not much thought is expended on this question, you have no disability to report. But to others, this question is a source of intense anxiety.

According to a 2017 study by the Center for Talent Innovation, 30% of white-collar college-educated professionals have a disability. Of all employees that fit into this group, 62% have one that is invisible; of those, only 3.2% reported disclosing their disability to their employers. Yes, you read that right, only 3% self-identify! As a sufferer of an invisible disability (we’ll dive into this in a minute), I fall in the 3% group and choose to not self-identify. I can attest to the real fear that comes with disclosing a chronic condition. Fear of teasing, harassment, change in relationships, and the possibility of being viewed as incapable or unpromotable is just a sample of the reasons why I choose to keep this information close to the hip. Contrary to a visible disability, typically those that present themselves in a physical form, a hidden or invisible disability is one that at the surface may not be immediately noticeable. Some examples include Arthritis, Cancer, Chronic Pain, Depression, Diabetes, Heart Conditions, Lupus, Post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleep disorders.

Jumping back into our application scenario, why then do companies ask this question? Is it for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) purposes? Is it required, and if so, what does the company gain from gathering this information? While there are many reasons for the collection of this information, I am going to focus on a few main points. Collecting and reporting this data is mandatory if the company receives federal funding under the 504 act of 1973. Section 504 forbids organizations and employers from excluding or denying individu