What You Should Consider In Deciding Whether To Disclose Your Disability On Your Resume And Cover Letter
While the federal Americans With Disability Act (ADA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment, some workers may be reluctant to disclose their disability. They may worry that disclosing a disability during the application process could result in their not getting the job or even an interview where they can show that their disability will not affect their ability to perform their job.
If you have a disability, there is no right time or place to disclose it to an employer. It is a very personal decision whether to make this disclosure at all, and you must decide when and if to tell a prospective employer about your disability.
Do Your Research Before Deciding Whether to Disclose Your Disability
Before deciding whether to disclose a disability, you should research the job you are thinking of applying for and the company itself. First, consider the following regarding the job:
- Covered under the law. Are your rights covered under the FEHA? The good news is that the FEHA covers any employer who employs five or more employees—which is almost every employer in California. Right away you know that you are probably protected from discrimination based on your disability.
- Education and experience. Be sure you meet the education and experience requirements in the job posting. While California law protects you against discrimination, it would not require an employer to lower its standards.
- Job duties. You need to review the job description to be certain that you could perform the essential duties of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. What happens if you cannot perform a nonessential job duty? You do not need to worry about this. As long as you can perform the essential duties, you are protected under the law.
- Accommodation. If you decide that you will need an accommodation, you should think of a few accommodations that would work. While there is no guarantee that these suggestions would be followed, it is a good idea to be prepared to offer them as solutions.
Once you determine that you are qualified for the job and can perform the required duties, you should research the company to learn about its history in working with employees with disabilities. When doing your research, focus on the following:
- How many employees with disabilities have been hired in the past?
- Does the company website or hiring materials contain a statement regarding their commitment to diversity that includes disabilities?
- Does the employer post job opening on any job sites that are disability focused?
- Has the company been involved in any disability-related event, like donating to a charity focused on a disability?
- Does the employer have a good work environment, such as offering employees the opportunity to work from home or flexible work schedules?
Should You Mention Your Disability in a Cover Letter or Resume?
You should keep in mind that you are never required to disclose your disability as an applicant or employee. The general rule of thumb is that it is rarely a good idea to disclose your disability in a cover letter or resume. The exception would be if the employer is specifically hiring under a program to recruit people with disabilities.
Reasons not to discuss your disability at this stage of the application process include:
- Fewer interviews. You may find you get fewer interview offers if you disclose your disability, no matter how artfully you do this.
- Reason to eliminate you. While your disability should not eliminate you from consideration, the reality is that employers use job applications to weed out applicants. Show your strengths in your resume and cover letter and avoid giving the employer the reason to put your application in the rejection pile.
- The law protects you. Another important reason not to disclose your disability at the application stage is that you are not required to provide this information. Even if you know you will need an accommodation, it is best to wait until your interview to discuss this—ideally, after you have talked about why you are right for the job.
Do you believe your prospective employer or employer discriminated against you based on a disability? Do you have questions about what you should disclose about your disability? Start an online chat or call our Irvine employment attorney at 949-679-9909 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.