Multiple Sclerosis [“MS”] is a very unique disability. MS can express itself in ways that are obvious to others (such as a mobility impairment). MS can also express itself in ways that are hidden (such as fatigue). No matter how MS expresses itself in you or your loved one, the dilemma is the same–Should I disclose that I have MS to a current or prospective employer? There are legal, moral and practical issues that are implicated by this question. This article will address the legal issues only.

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act [“ADA”], you do not have to disclose that you have MS if: (1) you can perform the essential duties of the job that you seek or hold; and (2) you do not need assistance (also known as a reasonable accommodation) to perform these duties. Under these circumstances, your disability is irrelevant and need not be disclosed.

For example, suppose you apply for a job as a nurse’s aide. During the interview process, the hospital identifies the essential duties of the position. You can perform these duties without assistance. You have no legal obligation to disclose that you have MS.

In contrast, you must disclose that you have MS if you can only perform the essential duties of the position with assistance from the employer. Your disability is now relevant because you are asking the employer to assist you in a way that is not required to assist employees without disabilities. Thus, the employer has a right to know that you: (1) have a legitimate disability; and (2) need assistance to perform the job.

For example, suppose the working hours of the nurses’ aide position are 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. You experience extreme fatigue daily at about 3:00 pm (when your body temperature rises to its highest level) and are unable to work after that time. You must disclose your disability because you can only perform the essential duties of the nurse’s aide position (required number of hours) with assistance. You might request that you be permitted to work from 7:00 am until 3:00 pm. If you do so, the hospital has a right to know (through appropriate documentation) that you have MS and that you experience severe fatigue in the afternoon hours.

In sum, your legal obligation to disclose that you have MS depends on whether you need assistance to perform the essential duties of the job that you seek or hold. If you do not need assistance, you have no obligation to disclose. If you need assistance, however, you must identify yourself as a person with MS and request assistance.