Should I Disclose My Invisible Disability To My Boss?

In a fair, just world, being disabled in the workplace would always mean accommodations and equitable treatment. But ask anybody in the disabled community– this is not always the case. Disabled people are not always treated fairly at work, and if you have an invisible disability, stigma and ignorance can make your job a lot harder.

What Is An Invisible Disability?

An invisible disability refers to a disability that is not immediately apparent to others, often because there are no visible signs or outward manifestations of the disability. These disabilities may not be readily apparent upon first meeting or observing someone. However, they can still significantly impact a person’s daily life, functioning, and interactions with others. Here are some examples of invisible disabilities:

  • Chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia and migraines
  • Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder
  • Neurodiversities like autism spectrum disorder and ADHD
  • Learning disabilities like dyslexia and dyscalculia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Crohn’s disease or other digestive disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Asthma or other respiratory conditions

These are just a few examples, and there are many other invisible disabilities that individuals may experience. It’s important to recognize that disabilities can vary widely in their nature and impact, and not all disabilities are immediately visible. Understanding and accommodating invisible disabilities is crucial for creating inclusive environments in workplaces, schools, and communities.

Disability Protection at Work

When you have a disability, whether it’s visible or invisible, you are entitled to protection under the law– specifically, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, job assignments, compensation, and training.

The ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications to the job or work environment that enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their job.

Considering Disclosure

Disclosure of an invisible disability to your boss is a personal decision that depends on various factors, including your individual circumstances, the nature of your disability, the workplace environment, and your comfort level. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether to disclose.

Need for Accommodations and Support

If your disability requires accommodations for you to perform your job effectively, disclosing your disability to your boss may be necessary to request those accommodations. Accommodations cannot be provided if your employer is unaware of your disability and its impact on your work.

Disclosure also makes it easier for your boss to provide additional support outside of direct accommodations. They may be able to offer flexibility, adjust work expectations, or provide assistance as needed.

Stigma and Discrimination

Unfortunately, there may be stigma or misconceptions surrounding disabilities in the workplace. Disclosing your disability could potentially subject you to discrimination or bias from coworkers or supervisors. The ADA does prohibit retaliation against individuals who assert their rights under the law. It aims to ensure equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and foster inclusive workplaces where all employees can participate fully and contribute to their fullest potential. However, just because the law says something, that doesn’t mean employers will happily follow it. It also doesn’t prevent discrimination, stigma, and unequal treatment at the office by your coworkers. This is a major reason that people choose not to disclose; sometimes employers will do illegal things because they know that employees are afraid of retaliation, or don’t want to spend the time and money required to file a discrimination suit.

Privacy Concerns

You have the right to privacy regarding your medical information. You are not obligated to disclose the specifics of your disability beyond what is necessary to request accommodations. Your employer should maintain confidentiality about your disability and accommodations; if you are worried that they might not, you might not want to disclose.


Consider when the appropriate time to disclose might be. You may choose to disclose during the hiring process, during a performance review, or when you need accommodations. Timing can depend on factors such as the urgency of your accommodation needs and your relationship with your boss.

Individual Comfort and Trust

Ultimately, the decision to disclose your disability is a personal one. Consider your own comfort level, the level of trust you have with your boss, and how you believe disclosure may impact your work environment. Also, disclosing an invisible disability makes it more visible. While no disabled person should feel obligated to be public about an invisible disability, being open about it does make it easier for other people with invisible disabilities. When you advocate for your needs, it makes companies aware of what those needs are, and makes it easier for others to get the support they need. The disability community is stronger together, and when you disclose your disability, it can help eliminate the barriers to access that exist in your workplace.

If you decide to disclose your disability, you may find it helpful to have a plan in place for how you will communicate about your needs and any necessary accommodations. This can help facilitate a constructive conversation with your boss and ensure that your needs are addressed effectively.

Who Needs To Know?

If your choice is to make your disability known at work, you certainly don’t have to tell the whole office! But there are some key figures who you should tell, because they are the people who can help manage your accommodations. These include:

  • Your Direct Supervisor or Manager: Your direct supervisor or manager is often the first person you might disclose your disability to, especially if it affects your ability to perform your job or if you require accommodations.
  • Human Resources (HR) Department: HR professionals are responsible for handling personnel matters, including accommodations for employees with disabilities. If you need formal accommodations, you may need to disclose your disability to HR to initiate the process.
  • Health and Safety Personnel: In certain industries or workplaces with specific safety requirements, health and safety personnel may need to be aware of employees’ disabilities to ensure workplace safety and compliance with regulations.
  • Union Representatives: If you are a member of a labor union, you will likely want to disclose your disability to your union representative. HR is there to protect the company; unions are there to protect you. If you are a union member and you face discrimination or ADA non-compliance, your union representative is the first line of defense.
  • Legal and Compliance Departments: Big companies may have a department responsible for ensuring that the company complies with all relevant laws and regulations. You should tell this department to ensure that your ADA-protected rights are protected.

Should I Disclose?

If you’re wrestling with the decision of whether to disclose your invisible disability at work, we understand the weight of this choice. A mental health professional like the team here at Love Heal Grow can provide the support and guidance you need to navigate this complex decision. If you’re considering disclosure, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists to explore your thoughts and feelings about the decision. Whether you’re seeking clarity, validation, or practical strategies, our team is here to support you every step of the way.


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