Do I Disclose or Don’t I?
As I’ve mentioned before (even on my other blog https://wp.me/p4e9wS-zY), I’m running low on money and clients in my freelancing business. Therefore, I’ve taken up searching job ads online for part-time, work-from-home gigs. (So far, Indeed is the only service that has presented me with reasonable options. I sometimes apply for as many as three a day.)
It’s filling out the applications that has me stumped. Oh, I’ve got a fine resume – one on Indeed and another file I can send to jobs not listed with Indeed. I can write a decent cover letter. If there are editing or writing tests, I can handle them too. I have way more education and experience than I need, but I explain in the cover letter that part-time, contract, or freelance work is what I really want at this time in my life.
Then come the other questions that many ask.
Am I a veteran? No.
Am I a U.S. citizen or do I have the necessary documents to work in the U.S.? Yes.
Is English my first language? Yes.
Am I male or female? Yes.
What race do I identify with? Yes.
(Those aren’t really yes/no questions and are usually marked as optional, but I answer them anyway.)
Then comes the real stumper. Am I disabled? Well, that depends.
Most of the application forms state that they abide by EEOC regulations. Some of them even have a handy list of what are considered disabling conditions – and bipolar is one.
So. Do I take them at their word and believe that they do abide by EEOC regulations, in which case I can reveal my bipolar condition without penalty. In fact, if the company is trying to prove to someone that they are abiding by those regulations, the answer is probably yes, I should.
But we all know that such questions, while well-meaning on the surface, may actually be used to screen out disabled candidates. So perhaps I should answer no.
The deal with the regulations is that employers must offer “reasonable accommodations” to let disabled employees do their jobs, unless the accommodations for that condition are not feasible because of expense or other reasons.
So, as a person with bipolar disorder, what actual accommodations would I need?
The main ones I would need are the ability to work remotely, from home, and to have flex time. Those cost an employer nothing, usually.
And those are precisely the kinds of jobs I am applying for – work-remotely jobs in which you can make your own hours, or at least partially.
So when it comes to “The Question,” I have been answering “yes.” For the purposes of work, I am at least partially disabled by my bipolar condition. I cannot work full time. I have trouble working in a bustling office with lots of people around. I need flex-time to work around my symptoms. (I can still meet deadlines, though.)
Funny, but the forms don’t have spaces or yes/no questions on those subjects.
I have considered the idea that I am doing this all wrong. That I should not disclose my bipolar disorder until I have the job (and for those who don’t ask the question, that’s what I’ll have to do). That after I have the job is when I should discuss accommodations.
But dammit, all evidence to the contrary, I am a cock-eyed optimist. Those EEOC rules are there for a reason and I am that reason. I know that when most employers think “disability,” they think “wheelchair” or “impaired hearing.” But there it is, listed right among the possible disabling conditions – bipolar.
So far I’ve gotten a few form rejection letters and mostly a resounding silence. And in the meantime I’ve been scrambling for other clients and other assignments.
But I hope the day will come when just one of my potential employers means what it says about disabilities.