Should you Disclose your Depression on Job Application?

Why would they hire me, if there were someone else out there with the same educational credentials and with no history of illness? The stigma is crazy. I guess because mental illness, in general, affects work performance badly, affects decision making, affects people mind (and body as well). I guess I fear disclosing that I'm mentally ill, because people wouldn't trust me or WORSE...start fearing me. People tend to stay away from things they don’t understand or don’t want to understand, or perhaps have no time to understand (From Healthboards Message Board).


Overview

Every employer is looking for the most appropriate employee, matching to the announced position requirements. The logic of job selection involves elimination of candidates until only one candidate remains, but the expectation is that this inevitably discriminatory process should be fair. Among people with a disability and professional rehabilitation counselors there is a widespread conviction that this is not the case for jobseekers with a medical history of depression. There can be no doubt that people with depression or any other disability may experience vocational discrimination. The reasons for this are multiple, interactive and complex but a major contributing factor for this exclusion has to do with employers whose negative attitudes are kept in place by myths regarding people with a depression as workers and a desire to avoid 'risky hires'. In some cases, the worst employer nightmare can be even true, if the hired employee will experience a major depressive episode, which is going to negatively affect the performance.

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Job Application: Disclose or Not Disclose?

First of all, unlike insurance policies where the applicant has a positive obligation to disclose information about the medical conditions, prospective employees do not have to provide information about themselves. If prospective employees choose to provide information they should ensure the information is true and not misleading.

Yes, as a general rule, you employer does not have any rights, as such, to request information from a prospective employee about medical condition, but honestly, if the candidate wants the job, it would be wise in certain cases to supply the required information as long as it is a reasonable and lawful request. Note that employer may find multiple legal excuses why you are not the best candidate for the position, while the real reason is the fact that you have depression. You will not be able to claim unfair business practices after all, since you will no real facts to prove your conditions was the roadblock for hiring.

If you decided to disclose your medical conditions, in any case, there is no need to give a full disclosure of your past medical records/history. You may disclose just your recent medical history/records relating the period of sickness in question. Past medical records are not relevant, and not required.

While it is well known that almost everyone has/will suffer some form of depression in their lives, and theoretically the fact of disclosure should not affect your chances of being hired, the real life is different.

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A different story is when your medical condition requires special accommodations. To enable an employer to make reasonable adjustments for a candidate with severe depression, the employer should be honestly informed in details, what the conditions are and what is needed to make it work.

Note that If the position requires the employee to meet certain medical requirements then the employer could ask the employee to complete an additional health questionnaire and make this and the successful medical assessment a condition of employment.

Also, for some positions, the particular medical conditions are not posted on the job description, but they are quite understandable. Some medications might jeopardize the performance, and the warning to operate machinery, to drive, etc. can be located on the label. If that is a case, and you are well aware that the restricted operations are those, you will have to perform at the new position, it is your moral and legal obligations to tell the truth. As far as your medical condition may impact yourself or others at job, you should not hide the fact, and the consequences might be far worse that not to be hired.

You should think twice before not disclosing you medical conditions, while you are on medications, if you are aware that the company is known be regular random drug testing or as you apply for a government job.

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What employer can do, if he learns that you failed to disclose your medical conditions at job application?

If the employee has failed to disclose the medical conditions, deliberately giving false answers to the directly posted questions on the job application or additional medical history forms, the employer could argue there has been a breach of the duty of mutual trust and confidence. The employee's employment could be fairly and lawfully terminated. The challenge for the employer is determining if the lie could justify termination and ensuring their actions are not discriminatory. If the employee provided the information as a condition of their employment and/or the employer relied on this information to recruit the employee, the employer could claim there has been a breach of the contract or a misrepresentation that led to the employer into entering into the contract. The employee could face a civil court claim to recover damages and to answer claims of fraud and negligence.

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