While everyone experiences minor anxiety about different situations once in a while, some people experience severe anxiety that qualifies as a mental impairment. Anxiety that is severe enough that it interferes with your ability to perform the daily tasks of your life and interferes with your work can be especially difficult to manage. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, it might qualify as a mental impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
However, you might be concerned about asking for accommodations from your employer since some employers are suspicious of employees who claim to suffer from mental impairments since they are harder to verify. Here is some information from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler about anxiety and employment.
ADA Protection for Anxiety
The ADA does not contain a list of qualifying conditions. Instead, a person’s condition is assessed on a case-by-case basis in relation to their jobs to determine whether ADA protection applies.
To be eligible for protection under the ADA, you must meet the following three criteria:
- You must be qualified for the position.
- Your anxiety must be impairing to the degree that it substantially limits your ability to perform a major life activity.
- You must be able to perform the essential tasks of the position with or without accommodations.
Mental Impairments and ADA Eligibility
Your employer can’t fire you based on your diagnosis of anxiety disorder. The ADA protects people who have chronic mental health conditions that limit their ability to function. Since anxiety changes your ability to concentrate and think, it is typically covered as a disability under the ADA.
To be protected under the ADA, you must work for a private employer that has at least 15 employees. Since most people work at will, they can be fired at any time and for any reason. However, reasons for termination must be legal, and disability discrimination is illegal. If you were fired from your job based on having an anxiety disorder, you might have a viable wrongful termination claim. In that situation, you should speak to an employment lawyer at Swartz Swidler to learn about your legal options.
Having an Anxiety Disorder While Applying for Jobs
You do not have to explain anything about your medical conditions when you undergo an interview for a job. An employer is not allowed to ask you about any conditions during an interview. You also don’t have to explain any accommodations you might need before you enter into an employment contract. An employer can’t deny employment to you based on your medical condition. However, it can be difficult to prove that an employer denied employment to you based on your diagnosis.
During an interview, you can ask the employer for basic accommodations like repeating a question or giving you a moment to consider how to answer. A prospective employer can ask you about things related to the job such as whether you can stand for a certain number of hours or lift a certain amount of weight if it is a part of the job’s duties. They can also make assumptions about your ability to perform the tasks of the job based on what you say during the interview.
Working With Anxiety
If you are dealing with an anxiety disorder that is interfering with your work, speak to human resources and ask for reasonable accommodations that could help you perform your job. Doing so allows your employer to know what you need so that you can continue working. Requesting accommodations also helps to create a written record of your diagnosis, that you asked for reasonable accommodations, and any approved accommodations you receive from human resources or your manager.
For example, if your supervisor approves your request to leave early once per week to attend therapy, they can’t later claim they fired you because you left early once per week. Remember that you have the right to privacy and can choose whether or not to share information about your diagnosis with your coworkers. You are not required to tell your team or manager what your diagnosis is. You can simply tell them that you have a diagnosis that will limit how you work for a certain period. Even though you don’t have to explain your diagnosis, you can explain the accommodation you need. For example, you might explain that you need time off to attend appointments or to be excused from any public speaking.
The HR staff might ask you to get a doctor’s note certifying your need for accommodations. However, this doesn’t mean you have to explain anything to anyone else other than the HR staff who processes your accommodations request. If you want to tell your teammates about your diagnosis, you can. However, it is your choice whether or not to do so.
Talk to an Employment Lawyer
Whether or not you will qualify for protection under the ADA will depend on your circumstances. If you are concerned about asking for accommodations based on your diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, you should talk to an employment lawyer at Swartz Swidler to understand your situation and whether you might qualify for protection under the ADA. If you were fired from your job and believe your termination was wrongful, we can also help you understand whether you have a viable claim. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case at (856) 685-7420.