Disclo brings technology to disability disclosure and HR compliance
For the 133 million Americans Struggling with a chronic illness, asking for extra support and accommodations at work can be a scary and uncertain experience. For HR managers trying to manage and respond to these requests, the process can be a confusing mess of paperwork and confidentiality issues. But smart technology has the power to change that.
Disclo is a new technology-driven compliance platform that manages employee disclosures and helps organizations meet their needs with thoughtful accommodations, while maintaining privacy and compliant with HIPAA and ADA regulations. Since its launch in July, the company already counts among its customers major players, including Kraft Heinz.
“There hasn’t been a standard for handling disclosures and requests,” says Hannah Olson, CEO of Disclo. “We’re working to create that normalization for employers and employees because right now most people don’t even know they’re supposed to talk to HR. There’s a lot of fear and shame here.”
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Olson is familiar with this brand of stress. After being diagnosed with Lyme disease in her early 20s, she made the difficult decision to quit her dream job, largely because her treatment plan conflicted with expects her to work in an office. This led her to launch Chronically Capable in 2020, a job platform and career community that connects workers with chronic conditions to job opportunities and remote work. In 2021, as the pandemic continued and workers struggled to create supportive workspaces at home, these community members began to ask Olson and his team for even more help.
“We were getting literally hundreds of messages a day about how to disclose a disability or workplace health issue,” Olson said. “We’re only seeing a 3% disclosure rate nationally, even though we know that 30% of all workers have a disability and 60% have chronic conditions.”
After speaking with hundreds of human resources managers, Olson realized that the employer also didn’t have much clarity about how the disclosure and accommodation process was supposed to work. In the interest of employee privacy, HIPAA and ADA regulations prohibit storing health information on technology-driven HR platforms like Workday or ADP; that left executives creating their own outdated systems, relying on random spreadsheets and even post-it notes to track employee requests and accommodations.
“[Even] big companies were telling us,” Olson says of these makeshift programs. In contrast, Disclo’s technology platform acts as a third party, handling all disclosures and accommodation requests between an employer and employee, without actually disclosing the employee’s underlying health condition to the Disclo may verify an employee’s terms through their healthcare providers, help negotiate accommodations, and timestamp each interaction, to show that both parties are engaged in the process.
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Since 2020, there has been a significant increase in requests for accommodation and complaints of discrimination. This shift in disclosure rates, Olson suggests, was a direct impact of the pandemic: As work shifted to home, many employees received stipends to create comfortable workstations that met their needs. As work shifts again, in some cases back to the office, employees may feel more empowered to request accommodations that will support their health and success.
“What resonates with employers is that Disclo is an intuitive technology platform. We are not an advisor, we don’t tell you how to react, we just help manage the process and eliminate many risks” , says Olson. “We can of course make recommendations – like flexible hours for anxiety or investing in an ergonomic chair for chronic pain – and have a huge library of resources, but we’re just here to help employers know how to manage these situations.”
Disclo has already proven vital to employers who, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, offered to provide travel allowances to employees who had to travel out of state to receive reproductive care. “We got a lot of inbound interest and were able to help organizations verify pregnancies and offer these reimbursements without having to know who is requesting an abortion,” Olson said.
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Simplifying the process for employers and employees, Olson hopes, will encourage more workers to seek the support they need, which has positive implications for businesses. According to harvard business reviewemployees who disclose their disability or condition at work are 30% more engaged than those who do not.
“We want to be a guide, like the TurboTax to disclosure and compliance,” Olson said. “Taxes are really hard to manage, but TurboTax takes it one step at a time. We built Disclo with that in mind, making the process easier for employers and employees alike.”