According to the National Institute of Mental Health, as many as one-fifth of people in the U.S. will suffer from a psychiatric disability at some point during their lives. The prevalence of mental health issues means that it is important for employers to address the needs of workers who are suffering from mental health issues. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the laws of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania forbid discriminating against people who are disabled, including those who are disabled by psychiatric conditions. Employers may also be required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are suffering from mental illnesses. Employees who have these conditions may also not be treated differently because of their illnesses. If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your condition, the experienced employment law attorneys at Swartz Swidler may be able to help.
Who is covered under the ADA?
Job applicants and workers must be otherwise qualified for the position in order to qualify for protection under the ADA. This means that the workers or applicants must have the education, experience and skills that are required for the job as well as the ability to perform its essential functions. People who are disabled to such a degree that they could not perform the essential functions even with reasonable accommodations are not qualified, and the employer may then refuse to hire or decide to terminate them.
Workers who are suffering from psychiatric conditions that substantially limit them in their ability to perform major life activities may qualify as having a disability that is protected by the ADA. The following situations may all qualify:
- A record exists of the disabling condition.
- The employer believes that an employee has a mental condition even if he or she does not.
- The employee doesn’t have a condition but is discriminated against based on his or her relationship with someone who does.
- An employee with a psychiatric condition requests reasonable accommodations and is retaliated against by the employer.
A condition may be substantially limiting if it makes activities more time-consuming, uncomfortable or more difficult. Intermittent symptoms do not disqualify the condition. The key issue is how the symptoms limit the worker when they are present.
Disabled workers may be entitled to receive reasonable accommodations if they are needed to help him or her to perform a task that is required by the job. These might include the following:
- Schedule changes or reassignments
- Allowing people to take medicine at work
- Changes to communication or management styles
- Relocating employees to less distracting areas
The employer’s duty to provide reasonable accommodations is triggered when the employer first learns about the condition and the employee’s need for accommodations. Normally, disabled employees must notify their employers about their conditions and request accommodations. In practice, many disabled employees don’t ask for accommodations or disclose their conditions out of fear of losing their jobs or their privacy. Employers should keep the information separate from the disabled employee’s personnel file and keep the information on a need-to-know basis. When employees fail to ask for accommodations, employers generally have no obligation to offer them. It is thus important for you to ask for accommodations if you feel that you need them.
Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to workers who are suffering from disabilities unless the accommodations would result in an undue hardship. An undue hardship is one that would cause a substantial expense or another difficulty, and determining whether or not a requested accommodation is unreasonable should be made on a case-by-case basis.
The ADA prohibits workplace discrimination against people who are suffering from psychiatric conditions in all aspects of employment. Employers are not allowed to treat people unfavorably simply because they are suffering from a mental health condition.
Contact Our Attorneys
If you have a mental health condition that is disabling, you may be protected under the ADA as well as the state laws of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Whether or not your disability qualifies will depend on what happened and how your condition limits you. To learn more about the rights that you might have if you believe that you have been discriminated against, contact the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.