The EEOC recently released a publication entitled “Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights” which employers might want to check out. You can access the publication by clicking here. The publication discusses a number of issues that employers should keep in mind when they deal with employees who suffer from mental health issues. Some of these include:
1. Employers need to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with mental health conditions.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits an employer from taking negative action against an employee due to the employee’s disability. The ADA defines disability broadly, and it includes virtually every recognized mental health condition.
The ADA also requires employers to provide disabled employees with a “reasonable accommodation” that permits the employee to continue working despite his or her disability. Providing an employee with a reasonable accommodation means that an employer must work with an employee to make changes to the workplace that allow the employee to continue working despite his or her disability. This might include, for example, giving an employee time off to attend therapy.
An employer does not have to grant every request that an employee makes. If the request is too burdensome (i.e. it would require the employer to make workplace changes that would significantly limit work from getting done, or would cost the employer significant amounts of money), then the employer does not have to grant it.
2. In Most Cases, Employers Cannot Require Employees to Disclose their Medical Condition.
An employer can only require employees to provide information regarding their medical history if it is necessary for a reasonable accommodation, paid time off, responding to a worker’s compensation claim, or engaging in affirmative action for people with disabilities.
An employer cannot require an employee to have a medical examination unless the examination is necessary for the performance of the job. So, firefighters can be required to take a test to determine their physical fitness prior to being hired. An office administrator cannot.
3. Employers Must Take Action to Prevent Harassment Based on Mental Health Conditions.
If an employee reports being harassed due to that employee’s mental health condition, or for any reason, an employer must take action to stop the harassment. An employer will be legally liable for any harassment that a supervisor engages in.
Employers may want to consider contacting an experienced attorney to discuss implementing workplace policies for employees with mental health conditions.