Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert and president & CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), answered a question in USA Today that caught our eye: “Question: I’ve been working remotely for a substance use clinic in NYC. Now, my employer plans to 'slowly' introduce the clients back, though I'm not sure what that means. I am a high-risk individual over 65 and had breast cancer and a mastectomy last year along with radiation. Do I have any rights to say I don't want to come back in because it puts me at risk despite our being given masks, face shields and hand sanitizer? – Anonymous”
We’ve been receiving similar questions often at CAC, and thought we’d weigh in as well! Here is what we would add on to Taylor’s excellent advice:
If you haven’t already told your employer about your diagnosis, that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to do so now. Generally, you are not required to disclose any information about your health to your employer, though it is an intensely personal decision and some may choose to do so for different reasons. Our website offers a section on thinking through essential questions when it comes to disclosing a diagnosis like should you tell, whom to tell, when to tell, how to tell, what to tell, etc.
However, there are some instances in which by law, you might need to disclose something, in order to receive some benefit. For example, to request a reasonable accommodation, you may have to disclose a medical condition – though not necessarily an exact condition (i.e. cancer).
In addition, depending on the culture and relationship you have with your employer, it might be helpful to ask more questions so you can get a better sense of what the workplace will look like. This can also help you brainstorm types of reasonable accommodations that will work for both you and your employer as you have a better understanding of what the new work day will look like for your team.