Mental Health and the Workplace

Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: What are Your Legal Rights?

According to the (NIMH), for every five Americans, one has a mental health illness. Mental illness includes many different conditions which vary in degree of severity. Examples of mental illnesses include;

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorder

When it comes to the workplace, around 18% of employees in the United States of America report they suffer from a mental health condition in any given month. Fortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees and job seekers with mental illnesses.

What is the Americans With Disabilities Act?

The ADA became law more than thirty years ago. The ADA prohibits discrimination and harassment against people with disabilities in all areas of public life. This means the ADA protects even employees. The primary purpose of the ADA is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

According to the ADA, a disability arises when a person has an impairment (physical or mental) that substantially limits one or more major life activities. According to the ADA, this includes those people with a record of such an impairment, even if currently, they do not have a disability.

Rights Under the ADA

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you have the right to privacy. You also have the right to get reasonable accommodations that can help you perform your duties. The ADA generally protects you from discrimination and harassment at work because of your mental health condition. And this applies even if you currently don’t have a mental illness but have a history of such an illness.

Right to Privacy

An employee or job seeker can keep their mental health condition private in most situations. An employer is only legally allowed to ask questions about an employee’s or applicant’s mental health condition in the following cases.

  • If an employee or job applicant asks for a reasonable accommodation
  • After offering an applicant a job but before employment begins, as long as everyone else entering the same job category is asked similar questions
  • When engaging in affirmative action for individuals with disabilities. However, in this case, an individual has the right to choose whether or not to respond.
  • On the job, when there is evidence that an employee may not be able to do their work well or poses a safety risk because of their condition.

Right to Reasonable Accommodation

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you have the right to ask for a change in the workplace that would help you perform your duties. Below are a few examples of possible accommodations;

  • Quiet office space
  • Changes in supervisory methods
  • Specific shift assignments
  • Permission to work from home

It is crucial to note that you can get reasonable accommodation for any mental illness, which would if left without treatment, substantially limit your ability to, among other things, interact with others, concentrate, sleep, eat, and regulate your thoughts or emotions. Additionally, you should note that a condition does not need to be permanent or severe for it to be “substantially limiting.”

Contact the Trabosh Law Firm

If you have a mental health illness and would like more information or legal help from an employment lawyer, feel free to contact the Trabosh Law Firm.