Disclosure of a communication disorder during a job interview: A theoretical model


Speech Language Pathology


With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), the definition of disability was expanded and the terms “speaking, hearing, and communicating” were given status as major life activities. Therefore, any communication disorder which substantially limits these major life activities in the workplace can qualify as a disability under the law. This legal protection means that no employer can ever ask about the presence of a communication disorder, and a job applicant is never required to disclose their communication disorder during the hiring process. However, this right to refrain from disclosure potentially places job applicants in a difficult situation. Applicants can choose to remain silent about their disorder and hopefully avoid hiring discrimination, yet the only way that workplace accommodations can be legally requested is if disclosure of the disability takes place. This disclosure decision-making process is likely complex and dependent upon multiple factors. Aspects such as workplace culture, job duties, severity of symptoms, individual motivations, and characteristics of the communication disorder likely all play a role when weighing the decision to disclose. This article proposes a theoretical model which outlines the factors that might influence the disclosure decision-making process for those with communication disorders before a job interview. Each major component of this decision-making process is highlighted, focusing on which factors might inhibit or foster disclosure within a hiring context. Clinical implications are discussed which can allow speech-language pathologists to assist those who are struggling with this important decision. The article also identifies areas in need of future research.

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Journal of Communication Disorders