Invisible Disabilities: Battling the Stigma at Work

Invisible Disabilities: Battling the Stigma at Work

Canadian disability law covers a wide range of conditions, including invisible disabilities like mental health issues, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. People with such conditions are entitled to the same rights and protections as people with visible impairments.

In practice, however, there is still a stigma associated with invisible conditions. Many people simply won’t believe that a medical issue is legitimate unless they can see the effects with their eyes and they won’t hesitate to spread their doubts with friends or in the workplace. Despite the legal protections, those who choose to disclose an invisible disability often face discrimination, resentment, and other negative consequences at the office.

That’s why the decision to reveal an invisible disability can be such a sensitive and delicate process. Many people prefer not to share their condition, and there is no need to do so as long as the disability does not jeopardize the safety of anyone else. Employers cannot ask about someone’s medical history on a job application or during an interview, nor can they factor it into their hiring process as long as the applicant is qualified to do the job.

For those who value their privacy and choose not to disclose, it is nevertheless prudent to get a dated doctor’s note before taking on a new position. Even people who have their disability under control may experience relapses or sudden flare-ups that prevent them from keeping up with their responsibilities at work. A doctor’s note will attest to the fact that they were able to meet the demands of the job when they were hired and demonstrate that the decision not to disclose was not dishonest or misleading in any way.

At the same time, it is worth noting that there can be benefits to disclosure. An employer that does not know about a medical condition will not be able to make accommodations for that condition. Sharing an invisible disability with a trusted manager (or HR) can allow them to come up with an arrangement that meets the needs of everyone involved.

For anyone who does opt for that route, it is generally best to be as direct as possible, and emphasize the proactive steps being taken to manage the disability in question. There’s no reason to be ashamed of an invisible disability. Someone who has learned to deal with a chronic medical issue will often bring a unique perspective (and unique skills) to their occupation.

Unfortunately, many people with invisible disabilities still face challenges at work and in the courts. Insurance providers may be more reticent to recognize an invisible condition, and will often want to see more medical evidence before acknowledging such a claim.

That shouldn’t deter anyone from seeking the benefits they deserve. Disability law is always evolving and now covers more conditions than ever before; with precedent suggesting that disability should be interpreted in broad terms. An invisible disability is a valid basis for a long term disability claim, so don’t hesitate to reach out to Share Lawyers if a medical issue is making it difficult to keep up with the demands at work or you have been wrongly denied short or long term disability benefits.


Has your long-term disability claim been denied? Contact Share Lawyers and put our experience to work for you. We have recently settled cases against Great-West Life, Desjardins, Manulife, RBC Insurance, Sun Life, and many more. We offer free consultations and there are no fees unless we win your case. Find out if you have a disability case.