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Should I tell my employer I have Parkinson’s?

should-i-tell-my-employer-i-have-parkinsons

Should I tell my employer I have Parkinson’s?

One of the questions we hear a lot from people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s is whether or not they should tell their employer. And if so, when? So, we asked two of our Ambassadors and Parkinson’s experts—Jill Ater and Tom Palizzi—how they handled it. 

Jill and Tom were able to navigate this often messy situation with relative ease; however, we know that’s not always the case. Employers and colleagues are not always understanding. And sometimes, just saying the word Parkinson’s can change how they view you. A lot of this has to do with a lack of understanding about what Parkinson’s is and how it shows up so differently for everyone who has it.

A reader of our blog, Dr. Michael Rappaport, is one of the many living with Parkinson’s who had a negative experience when his Parkinson’s became public at work. It was so bad in fact, that he sued his employer.

He and many others have heartbreaking stories about what happened when they shared their diagnosis with their employers. For some of you, telling your employer might be the exact right thing to do. For others, keeping it to yourself for as long as possible may be the best path. As always, we recommend talking through your unique situation with trusted friends, family and advisors (maybe even a lawyer) before you decide one way or the other. 

Do you have a question you’d like one of our Parkinson’s experts to answer?

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3 Comments on “Should I tell my employer I have Parkinson’s?

    • Henry Frick

      September 22, 2018 at 12:58 pm Reply

      I was lucky enough to have kept the secret for about four years. I blamed my slightly shaky hands on the coffee being too strong it was my speech stutter that got them wise to me

      • Melani Dizon

        September 24, 2018 at 5:46 am Reply

        Hi Henry – You bring up a good point. Parkinson’s shows up so differently for everyone. When and if you share may have a lot to do with the symptoms that are most obvious to others. I hope you had a positive experience once you did share it.

    • Brian McDonald

      October 4, 2018 at 9:47 am Reply

      Hi Henry – My experience proves that when you’ve seen one Parkinson’s patient you’ve seen one Parkinson’s patient. Due to the recession, 6 months after diagnosis, I had to start a new job as an architect. On day one my boss said we were going to design and build a major Parkinson Center.
      I had to tell him that I may be recognized as one of their patients.
      He asked if that would bother me. I said no. He said “Then let’s get going”
      I worked for him for 5 years until I had to tell him that I was going to retire on disability. Most professionals I’ve met with Parkinson’ Can work at the top of their game for some years after diagnosis.

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