What Qualifies Under the ADA? What Accommodations Are Required?
The 21st-century workplace can a highly stressful environment. An increasingly mobile workforce benefits workers in many ways but can also be a source of significant job insecurity. Meanwhile, production demands across most sectors are consistently on the rise. Accordingly, it comes as no surprise that nearly half of all social security disability claims are based primarily on mental health issues. A 2018 study found that more than 44 million Americans, nearly one in every five adults, reported a mental health problem.
Can a Mental Health Condition Serve as the Basis for an ADA Claim?
One of the primary objectives of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to prevent disability-based harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The ADA’s expansive definition of disability covers both physical and mental conditions that “substantially limit one or more major life activities.” Among the mental challenges specifically included in the scope of the ADA are difficulties thinking, managing emotions, communicating, and concentrating.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency that sets forth rules, regulations, and conditions regarding administration of the ADA. The EEOC has specifically stated that mental health issues are subject to the provisions of the statute. Furthermore, the EEOC has determined that mental health issues need not be permanent or even severe to warrant accommodations or other remedies under the ADA. The EEOC has identified certain types of mental health and psychiatric maladies as disabilities under the ADA, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Significant depression
What Accommodations Are Available?
Among the remedies provided by the ADA is the right to ask an employer for a “reasonable accommodation” that allows the worker to perform the tasks associated with their job. Some “reasonable” accommodations for workers with mental health issues include:
- Leave with protected job status
- Reduced or modified work schedule
- Assignment to a different position that alleviates stress on the worker
- Creation of a quiet workspace/office
- Different management methods, including reduced production standards
Your employer is not automatically required to offer or provide accommodations. You must affirmatively ask for them and should do so in writing, documenting what you need and why. Even so, your employer has the right to reject your proposed accommodations if they will result in an unreasonable burden on the employer.
Disclosure of Private Mental Health Information to Make an ADA Claim
Under federal law, an employee has a right to keep certain medical information confidential. However, if you ask for an accommodation under the ADA, you generally must tell your employer the medical basis for your request. Once you do, though, you have the right to expect your employer to keep the information confidential.
Contact the Experienced Employment Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
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