Employer Disability Practices Center

Diversity and inclusion in the legal profession: disclosure of cancer and other health conditions by lawyers with disabilities and lawyers who identify as LGBTQ + 

Purpose

Given the training and experience of lawyers, we assumed that a study of lawyers’ willingness to disclose disability in the workplace would provide an example of the actions of a group knowledgeable about disability law. The current study accounts for the effect of visibility of disability, onset and type of disability, and whether the lawyer has made an accommodation request. We also investigate the role of other individual characteristics, such as sexual orientation, gender identity, race/ethnicity, age, and job-related characteristics, in willingness to disclose.

Methods

We use data from the first phase of a longitudinal national survey of lawyers in the USA to estimate the odds of disclosing disability to co-workers, management, and clients using proportional odds models.

Results

Lawyers with less visible disabilities, those with mental health disabilities, and those who work for smaller organizations have lower odds of disclosing to co-workers, management, and clients as compared to their counterparts. Attorneys who have requested accommodations are more willing to disclose as compared to those who have not, but only to co-workers and management. Women are less likely than men to disclose to management and clients. However, gender is not a significant determinant of disclosure to co-workers. Older attorneys are more likely to disclose to clients, whereas attorneys with children are less likely to disclose to co-workers. Lastly, lower perceived prejudice and the presence of co-workers with disabilities are associated with higher disclosure scores, but not for all groups.

Conclusions

Individuals who acquired a disability at a relatively early point in life and those with more visible disabilities are more likely to disclose. However, such willingness is affected by the intersection of disability with other individual and firm-level characteristics.

Implications for Cancer Survivors.

The findings imply that those with less visible disabilities and with health conditions acquired later in life are less likely to disclose. The relevance of the findings is heightened by the altered work conditions and demands imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic for cancer survivors.