'Must I tell bosses about an illness?'
Prospective employers aren't allowed to ask about your health - but that doesn't mean you shouldn't volunteer some information.
NEW YORK (Money) -- Question: For the past three years I have worked only intermittently while I battled with cancer. Now, after six surgeries, it appears as if I'm free and clear, and I'm eager to re-launch my career.
Since there is no guarantee that the cancer will not recur and cause further work loss, though, I'm wondering whether I'm ethically obligated to reveal my past medical problems when I interview for a job.
Answer: Good for you for caring. The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids prospective employers from asking about your health, and you are under no legal obligation to volunteer that you've been sick.
You do, however, have an ethical obligation to bring up your illness at the point at which you're offered a job.
After all, disclosure is a two way street, and surely you'd want your prospective employer to tell you if, for example, the job you were being offered was at risk of disappearing once an up-coming merger was completed.
This said, we're sympathetic to the spot you're in, and we'd be slow to criticize you if you kept mum. But the smaller the organization that offers you a job, the more you should consider being forthcoming. That is, in deciding what to do, you need to consider how difficult it would be for your employer and your fellow employees if you needed to take a lot of time off.
Consider, too, that you'll be well served in the long run if your boss's first impression of you is that you are honorable and forthright. We wish you well in your job search, and we hope you remain in good health.
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