The ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibits employers from discriminating against “qualified” individuals with disabilities with regard to employment decisions. This prohibition includes the job application process, hiring and firing practices and policies, promotions, discipline, compensation, job training and many other “terms, conditions and privileges of employment. A common issue in disability discrimination cases is whether an individual is actually suffering from a disability that is covered under the ADA. One of the most commonly misunderstood categories of disabilities is mental illness.
Mental Disorders Are More Common Than You May Think
Not all disabilities are obvious to most people. This is especially true for mental illnesses that result in disability. Mental disorders can include mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, panic disorders, OCD, PTSD, autism, and many others. More than a quarter of all Americans who are over the age of 18 reportedly suffer some type of mental illness. That equates to nearly 60 million people. For individuals between the ages of 15 and 44, mental disabilities are the most common type of disability reported.
How Does The EEOC Perceive Mental Health Disabilities?
The EEOC recently released a publication regarding the rise of mental health-based discrimination in the workplace. In light of the fact that mental disabilities are so widespread and diverse, this type of discrimination is a very common problem. With the increased focus on employment discrimination, the number of lawsuits being filed alleging mental disability discrimination is also on the rise. In fact, the EEOC has reportedly handled more than 5,000 claims of mental health discrimination in 2016, with nearly $20 million in settlements.
What Do Employees Need To Know About Discrimination?
In addition to the fact that your employer is prohibited from taking any adverse employment action against you because of your mental disability, there are also other protections for which you are entitled as an employee. Employers are not allowed to fire you, refuse to hire you, or deny you promotions or pay increases simply because of your disability. In addition, as an employee, you are entitled to keep your mental health condition private. Your employer is only allowed to ask you about your health condition in certain situations.
When Are Employees Required To Disclose Their Mental Condition?
If you ask your employer for an accommodation related to your mental health condition then you will necessarily need to explain to your employer the disability for which you are requesting the accommodation. If your employer has some evidence that you are unable to perform your duties because of your condition, then your mental health condition will become an issue that must be discussed. Another situation where your mental health condition may need to be disclosed is when your employer believes you pose a danger to others.
Requesting An Accommodation Is Required
The employer only has to provide an accommodation if the individual with a disability requests one. Once a reasonable accommodation has been requested, the employer and employee will discuss what is needed and try to identify an appropriate reasonable accommodation. If there are several options, the employer is able to choose the option that is less costly or easier to provide.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.