Should I disclose my back surgery to prospective employers?

I had surgery to repair a ruptured disk (L4-L5) in early September. There were other factors involved, but the surgery was the catalyst that made me start looking for another job. The surgeon and physical therapist have said that I’m fully recovered and can lift up to 35 pounds. However, I work in a trade where lifting is required–not heavy lifting, but lifting nonetheless.

My concern is that, if I mention my injury and surgery, employers will not want to hire me, but if I don’t mention it and they find out, they’ll consider that I’ve lied by omission and wonder what else I’ve lied about and won’t want to hire me.

I have been working with a personnel agent, and when I asked her she said that employers are not legally allowed to have that information, so it would create problems for them if I did tell them. She had checked out my references and said that none of them mentioned the surgery and not to worry about it.

Still, should I be worried? Obviously I can tell my references not to mention it, but is there any kind of background check an employer could run that would disclose it? Is it ethical not to mention it? Would employers not hire me because of my surgery, even though I’m able to do everything I need to to do my job?

Just keep it to yourself.

For them to find out by other means would be a Hipaa violation. If they discover it after you’ve been hired and they then fire you even though you can do the work, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination suit.

Are they going to ask? They probably won’t do so directly. If you’re trying to end up with a disability claim after your back starts to hurt at this new job it will probably work.

No, I’m looking for a job with lower lifting than my previous job. There, I was required to lift 45 lbs from the floor to waist level, and then back down to the floor, many times during my shift. There are jobs in my trade where lifting is virtually nil, and, I think, a number of places that would hire me and arrange for assistance with lifting because I have a lot of skills and a lot of experience. But of course I’d have to get a foot in the door before discussing that, which is where the disclosure dilemma kicks in.

I’m hoping you were kidding, because believe me, not being able to work sucks. Aside from the financial aspects, feeling unproductive, inactive, and useless is really crummy.

I’m not accusing you of anything, but I’m not kidding either, it’s pretty easy to make a disability claim. I hope you get this job and do well.

So long as you can carry out the essential job functions it’s none of their business.

I don’t think that’s what a HIPAA violation is. HIPAA privacy rules apply to medical professionals, not laypeople. If your next door neighbor tells a prospective or current employer about the time you spent three weeks in traction or the time the ambulance picked you up after you fell off the roof no HIPAA violation has occurred. If your pharmacist talks about your antidepressants, that’s a different story.

HIPAA applies to any “covered entity,” which is substantially broader than just medical profressionals, but otherwise your post is correct.

I should mention that they may be allowed to have you complete a medical history questionnaire after you are hired; they can’t ask you to do it before being hired because of the ADA. Depending on the laws of your state, you will likely forfeit eligibility to certain types of benefit (such as workers’ compensation) if you do not complete the questionnaire truthfully.

If a covered entity exposed private medical information they would be violating HIPAA regulations, the person or business that receives that information would not be liable.

How much lifting do you think you could realistically do? That’s the only question that’s relevant to the employer. The exact reason for the answer is none of their business.

If you can do the amount of lifting (not just the weight, but the frequency), that the job requires, no issue.

Never, ever require a disability when applying for a job. Never. If you can do the job, that is all you need.

If you are qualified for the job, you have no reason to mention it; you will have omitted nothing relevant if you don’t tell them about your injury/surgery.

You don’t need to mention it to them. But if you go out of work for an injury related to your back, you may get denied disability benefits from your company’s disability carrier due to what’s called the Pre-Existing Condition Limitation. Basically, there may be a clause stating that if you have a prior injury for which you treated during a designated period of time, and if you go out of work after getting hired due to that injury, the disability carrier will deny your claim and not provide income replacement while you are out of work.

Thank you guys for putting my mind at rest. It’s a relief to know this.

Agreed with the above. There is no reason to disclose your injury.

If your job involves physical labor and it might become an issue, wait until after they have made a conditional offer of employment.

HR professional weighing in.

Unless it impedes you in some way, and unless you require some type of accommodation outside of the norm (special chair, equipment, rest periods, lifting limitations, etc.), you should say nothing about it at all. They will not ask you, it’s not allowed.

And even if you do need some type of accommodation, you do not have to elaborate on what that might be until you’ve received, and accepted, their employment offer.
ETA - as Chihuahua just said. :slight_smile: