can you be fired for not disclosing a disability

Although societal attitudes are changing and the protections for people with disabilities are expanding, not everyone feels comfortable disclosing their disability at work. Maybe you do not want others to judge you. Or perhaps you do not think your disability is that serious. Whatever the case, it’s only natural to ask, Can you be fired for not disclosing a disability?

The answer is generally no. You are under no obligation to tell your employer about your disability. While there are exceptions to this rule, they are few and far between.

That said, you should not be afraid of disclosing a disability. The law provides ample protection to federal employees with disabilities. In addition, discussing your medical condition may allow you to receive valuable accommodations, like flexible work accommodations and telework. 

If you think you were fired after disclosing a disability, you may be able to recover compensation. Get in touch with our experienced EEO reasonable accommodation and MSPB lawyers right away by calling (800) 801-0598 or filling out our online form today.

Can You Be Fired for Not Disclosing a Disability?

No law requires a federal employee to disclose a disability to their employer. Furthermore, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act work together to protect federal employees from discrimination based on their disability. These protections extend to every aspect of employment. 

As such, your employer cannot:

  • Demote you,
  • Discipline you,
  • Reduce your pay,
  • Reduce your workload,
  • Increase your workload,
  • Exclude you from meetings,
  • Make assumptions about your condition, or
  • Use slurs against you that relate to your condition. 

These actions only serve as a few examples, not a comprehensive list. To learn more about what constitutes disability discrimination, contact one of our outstanding federal employment attorneys. 

When Do I Have to Disclose Medical Information to My Employer?

Notwithstanding the above information, there are three circumstances where not disclosing a disability could be potentially problematic. 

#1 – Your Disability Creates Safety Concerns

The first situation involves safety concerns. If not disclosing a disability could cause a direct threat to the safety of yourself or others, then you may be at risk for discipline. Imagine, for instance, a situation where you work as a van driver for a federal agency but conceal the fact you have epilepsy.

If you were to suffer an epileptic seizure while driving, it would jeopardize both your life and the lives of everyone in the vehicle. Another example might be if you worked as an air traffic controller and suffered from extreme, debilitating anxiety attacks while under pressure. These situations are rare, highly contact-specific, and require your employer to meet a substantial burden of proof.

#2 – Your Disability Causes Your Performance to Suffer

Another possible scenario where it would be prudent to share your disability is when it causes your performance to suffer. In our legal practice, we commonly see situations where an employee’s supposed performance problem is really the result of a subtle disability.

Without knowing about your disability, your employer may believe that you are simply a poor performer. Even worse, your employer may try to remove you based on your poor performance because it does not know that it needs to accommodate your disability.

#3 – Your Disability Merits Reasonable Accommodation

The ADA and Rehabilitation Act guarantee federal employees the right to reasonable accommodation. Specifically, your agency must provide you with reasonable accommodation if it is not an undue burden for them and if it allows you to perform the key functions of your job. 

Examples of reasonable accommodation include telework, flexible work schedules, breaks, assistive technology, changes to working conditions, and remote work. Even if your disability is a small burden, the law entitles you to receive reasonable accommodation that may significantly improve your quality of life. If you wish to take advantage of this right, you will need to disclose at least some information about your disability. 

Is My Condition a Disability?

Probably. The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Congress consciously designed this definition to be broad so that virtually anyone with a medical condition would be eligible for support.

The phrase “physical or mental impairment” encompasses any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss. It also extends to neurological issues, mental illnesses, emotional disturbances, and learning disabilities. 

Similarly, “major life activities” extend to almost every daily function of ordinary individuals. 

A few examples include:

  • Caring for yourself,
  • Performing manual tasks,
  • Seeing,
  • Hearing,
  • Eating,
  • Sleeping,
  • Walking,
  • Standing,
  • Lifting,
  • Speaking,
  • Breathing,
  • Learning,
  • Reading,
  • Thinking,
  • Working, and
  • Drinking.

Finally, the ADA protects individuals who have a record of an impairment or who are seen as having an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. This facet of the definition protects individuals from discrimination because they have a history of disability or seem to have a disability. 

Given this sweeping definition, it’s highly likely your medical condition qualifies as a disability. 


“I have never been involved in a court case before and was scared to make even the first phone call to seek legal counsel. I found Pines Federal after reviewing several offices…My case was settled to my satisfaction and I can’t recommend this practice enough…

Vanessa W.

I’m Being Disciplined for Failure to Disclose a Medical Condition to a Federal Employer. What Can I Do?

If you’re facing disciplinary action for allegedly failing to disclose a medical condition, you must assert your rights and be proactive. 

Take the following steps as soon as possible:

  • Review your agency’s policies. While they must follow laws like the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, most federal agencies have policies regarding the disclosure of medical conditions. Understanding these policies can help you determine if you were actually in violation and what your rights are. 
  • Consider disclosing your condition. If your medical condition affects your ability to perform your job duties, consider formally disclosing your condition and requesting a reasonable accommodation. Doing so puts your employer on notice that you have a disability and forces them to help you perform the essential functions of your position. 
  • Gather valuable documents. Collect any medical documentation related to your condition and any correspondence or materials related to your agency’s disciplinary action against you. These documents will be critical in defending your case later on. 
  • Seek legal advice. Consult with an attorney who specializes in federal employment law. A qualified federal disability attorney can guide you on your rights, help you understand your agency’s specific policies, and advise you on the best course of action. 
  • Provide a detailed response to the disciplinary action. One of the benefits of being a federal employee is that the law requires your employer to give you due process rights. You will have the opportunity to tell your story and respond to the charges against you. 
  • File a complaint if necessary. If none of these actions stop the pending disciplinary action, file a formal complaint. You may file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

If you decide to file an appeal or complaint, act quickly. There are often strict timelines for launching an appeal. Moreover, retain an attorney. Having an experienced attorney on your side will maximize your chances of protecting your federal career and receiving the compensation you deserve. 

Pines Federal Is Ready to Protect You and Your Rights

At Pines Federal, we have a passion for empowering federal employees who find themselves caught in challenging workplace situations. Unlike many other firms, we are experienced with situations involving disclosures of medical conditions and securing reasonable accommodations. Our outstanding attorneys possess the nuanced understanding and ample experience necessary to guide you through the intricate process of managing disclosures and advocating for your rights. 

Are you ready to take the first step toward securing the support and understanding you deserve in the workplace? Reach out to us online or call (800) 801-0598 today to schedule a comprehensive consultation.