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Pros and Cons of Young Employees Disclosing a Disability to Employers

By Bill O’Connor
Bill O'ConnorA young adult with a learning disability looks forward to the chance to take on responsibility, make decisions and build interpersonal communication just like any traditional prospective hire. As always, one of the decisions a candidate or new employee must make is disclosure of disability to an employer. Others can provide help and support when it comes to making the decision. Parents especially, because of how well they know their child and understand the disability, can help more than anyone else.  
When someone discloses a disability in school, their performance can be judged fairly and others can provide more support if needed. Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) might have goals to teach self-advocacy, a factor that can lead to success.
However, jobs don’t have IEPs, and few managers know how to deal with learning issues.
This self-advocacy issue is a big crossroads. Asking the candidate if he/she needs help with the disclosure decision can make it easier for them to make the decision in each situation. Here are some pros and cons to consider when helping candidates:

Pros:
Accommodations in the workplace:  The ADA requires that employers provide reasonable accommodation, but here, these laws can help only if the candidate speaks out. This could even require documentation to activate these laws. Human resources may be the best place to start rather than the hiring manager themselves.
Return on human investment for the employer:  Subsidies and tax breaks can be earned though hiring these candidates, so this could shine well on hiring officers as well as HR.
Learning solutions for the future: Fair judgement of job performance can be determined by the employer, so resources, like job coaches, can help the candidate. A coach can provide on-site support and other resources that can help them succeed in the workplace in their young working history.

Cons:
Concerns about being given less responsibility: Someone may worry that they won’t be trusted to take on important projects if they tell their boss about their disability. They may also be concerned that disclosing their disability could lead to being passed over for a promotion or a raise.
Confidentiality issues: Someone may worry that if they tell their employer, word will get out and fellow coworkers will know about their disability. Human resources officers know that information about a worker’s disabilities must remain private and that employers can get in trouble for breaking that rule. If a new worker lets fellow employees know about the disability, this becomes information that can be known by other employees.
Know rights at work and how anti-discrimination laws are designed to prevent an employer from doing these kinds of things.

As you’re helping your child think about how to disclose their disability, you can give them other advice on how to make their first job a good experience. If they are finishing high school or college, you can also take steps to ease their transition into the working world.


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