Should You Be Honest With Your Employer About Migraines?
Last updated: September 2023
The decision of whether to disclose your migraine diagnosis to a prospective or current employer comes down to weighing the pros and cons of each option. There are lots of good reasons to share this personal information, but there are also many reasons not to. There is a lot at stake in making this choice. It's a very personal decision.
- Disclosing would explain why you're missing work and your limitations on the job.
- Your employer won't be caught off guard if you go through an especially rough patch and need someone to fill in for you while you take leave.
- You'll need to disclose your illness to seek accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- If you work in certain settings, such as the medical field, your employer needs to know about communicable diseases to protect patients. Fortunately, this is not a consideration for people living with migraine but is something to be aware of if you live with other conditions.
- Talking openly about your needs might help improve your working environment and make doing your job less burdensome.
- If your employer offers health benefits they must keep your individually identifiable medical information private to comply with the requirements of HIPAA. There may also be similar state laws that apply to your situation.
- Less scrupulous employers may try to fire you because they know you're sick and consider you a problem. Even though this kind of treatment is often illegal, it still happens.
- Telling your employer could damage your opportunities for advancement and involvement in prestigious projects.
- Your co-workers might feel you're getting special treatment. Sadly, adults can be incredibly petty and self-interested in the workplace.
How are other conditions are handled?
- Have any of your coworkers "come out" about health problems?
- How were they received?
- Does your employer have any rules or guidelines about how they treat people with health concerns?
You can decide how much you want to share
If you decide to disclose your migraine disease to your employer you must then decide how much information to share. Some people are more comfortable being a bit vague and simply stating they have a type of condition (such as a neurological condition), while others are more comfortable saying exactly what they have (migraines).
Disclosing your health status can be a great opportunity to provide some basic education to your employer about the nature of your disease so your superiors can better understand what you're dealing with. But doing so can be a huge risk.
Have any of you dealt with this? How did you handle it? Did you make the right decision?
Which are you most sensitive to?