Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.
A myriad of occurrences may come up in a person’s life that can create depression, PTSD, and anxiety and more. Divorce, experiences in the military, trauma, the death of a loved one are examples of stressors that can impact a person. It’s important for potential hires and employees to work with Human Resources (HR) and request a Reasonable Accommodation if necessary.
What is a Reasonable Accommodation?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a Reasonable Accommodation is some type of change in the way things are normally done at work. Just a few examples of possible accommodations include altered break and work schedules (e.g., scheduling work around therapy appointments), quiet office space or devices that create a quiet work environment, changes in supervisory methods (e.g., written instructions from a supervisor who usually does not provide them), specific shift assignments, and permission to work from home.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.
It’s essential for employers and employees to work together to avoid disability discrimination. It can be prevented by understanding the roles that each member is responsible for when a (mental) disability matter comes up. The employer and employee must understand how to abide by the American Disability Act. For example, if you are wondering what has to be shared in regards to medical examinations and inquiries, the EEOC shares their guidance on this matter.
Title I of the ADA also covers medical examinations and inquiries.
Employers may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may be asked about their ability to perform specific job functions. A job offer may be conditioned on the results of a medical examination, but only if the examination is required for all entering employees in similar jobs. Medical examinations of employees must be job-related and consistent with the employer’s business needs.
Medical records are confidential. The basic rule is that with limited exceptions, employers must keep confidential any medical information they learn about an applicant or employee. Information can be confidential even if it contains no medical diagnosis or treatment course and even if it is not generated by a healthcare professional.
Employees with (mental) disabilities are often able to perform their job with a Reasonable Accommodation through their employer. They may be able to focus better if they work in a quieter work environment, attend meetings remotely, are allowed frequent shorter breaks, receive more breaks for medications, work part-time, exchange work duties with another employee, receive more reminders of tasks and their due dates for example.
Disability discrimination occurs when an employer or other entity covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, treats a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorably because she has a disability.
Mental health conditions are so highly stigmatized and misunderstood, workers with psychiatric disabilities are more likely than others to experience workplace harassment. It’s of the utmost importance that any kind of discrimination is dealt with in a fair, prompt, and reliable manner by the management of a company. Employees or potential applicants who feel they were discriminated because of their (mental) disability can contact the EEOC at https://www.eeoc.gov/field/index.cfm to inquire about their concerns or to make a disability claim with the EEOC.
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