MS symptoms: Disclosing MS to Employers

Unknown-2A reader asked me the other day, “How did you handle potential employers?” Early in my career I did not disclose my illness to anyone in fear of not being hired or finding myself out of a job. As long as I could perform my duties without accommodations than I did not share.

My husband and I became known for our technology skills in the 1990s, which meant school districts requested our applications for positions throughout our careers. As an administrator districts were interested in my experience with virtual education including my research for the State of Alaska in virtual special education services. This gave me the good fortune to be able to be up front about my medical issues. No district was discouraged by my illness in anyway even though I was clear that my medical bills usually ran over $100K and I needed flexibility in my work schedule.

I chose to remain with the same employer despite many offers for excellent positions. Moving in Alaska can be difficult. Beginning a new job is stressful. MS is aggravated by stress. Moving with a new job could have sent me straight to medical disability. To claim disability one must have been with the school district for at least one year. I did not know if I could make a year if I had a terrible MS attack. In short, I was a chicken and did not want to play Russia Roulette with my earning power.

My advice to others: Keep it to yourself if you are early in your career, fairly healthy and are building skills employers will seek out down the road. If your medical needs will interfere in your ability to perform required job duties, disclose. If you already need accommodations, disclose. Just because you have MS does not mean they won’t hire you. Better to let the cat out of the bag rather than have the ugly surprise of being let go for “other reasons”.

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About the Author

Melissa Cook
Melissa Cook is the author of As a retired high school teacher and school district administrator, she chooses to share her MS story in hopes of benefiting others.