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Do I Have to Disclose Mental Illness in my Interview?

Nurse Beth   (479 Views 1 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

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Dear Nurse Beth, 
I recently accepted a job offer on PCU.

My question is, should disclose that I take antidepressants and that I have depression and anxiety (that is well controlled with meds) on my employee health history form?

The hospital is an at-will employer and I'm afraid that they might use my mental illness as grounds to rescind my employment for whatever reason. I don't want to get in trouble for non-disclosure either, so I'm stuck with what to do.

Dear Takes Antidepressants,

Congrats on your job offer to PCU!

Should you disclose that you are being successfully treated for depression and anxiety?

ADA

Absolutely not unless you choose to. You are under no obligation to disclose unless you are asking for a work accommodation, which you are not. Employees have a right to work accommodations unless it would cause undue hardship form the employer. An example of a work accommodation is an amplified phone for someone who is hard-of-hearing.

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 protects you from discrimination in hiring. Employers cannot ask about mental illness.

You do have to meet the physical requirements of the job, i.e. lifting, and should be able to meet the stress and other job demands.

Stigma

Stigma around mental illness is still perpetuated and this is so even in the health care industry. You may be the recipient of negative responses. You may also receive supportive responses, but there's no way to predict.

Disclosing a mental disorder is not required, it doesn't necessarily help you, and it can hurt you. Therefore the wisest course may be to not disclose.

At-Will Employment

"It’s important to understand at-will employment. The vast majority of states have at-will employment, which means the employer or the employee can sever the relationship at any time with or without cause and with or without notice. Most employees work under an at-will arrangement, whether they know it or not.

States who do not have at-will employment include:

  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • Rhode Island

There are exceptions to At-Will employment, and that is when there is a contractual agreement with the employer. Usually this takes the form of a union contract. Even in Texas or any other At-Will employment state, the union contract regarding discipline and termination must be followed.

Likewise, employers are held to their own policies. Most smart employers know they have nothing to gain by firing employees arbitrarily and have written policies. So if the employee handbook states that employees must be given warning, or follow progressive discipline, or have just cause, they must follow their own policies."

Disclosure

Disclosing mental health issues is completely your personal decision. If you do disclose, it should be purposefully and for a reason that would benefit you, such as knowing you may need time off in the future during an exacerbation, or explaining previous gaps in employment. Even so, if explaining employment gaps, all you have to say is "I was off work for a medical issue that is resolved now".

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. If every health care professional treated for depression or anxiety in any given hospital was sent home today, it would be difficult to get all the work done!

So choose your responses wisely and weigh your options. 

Stay healthy, my friend, and best wishes,

Nurse Beth
Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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