Your Legal Rights about Mental Health in the Workplace

Do you suffer from a mental health condition such as PTSD, depression or anxiety? Ever wonder if you have any legal rights concerning your condition at work? Take a moment and learn about your legal rights in the workplace environment.

  1. Your employer cannot fire you because you have a mental health condition. It is absolutely illegal for a business to terminate or reject you for a job or promotion. Additionally you cannot be forced to take leave.

  2. Most of the time you are allowed to keep your condition private. An employer is only allowed to ask medical questions in four situations:

  • After the business has made you a job offer, but before employment begins, as long as EVERYONE entering the same job category are asked the same questions.

  • When you are seeking a reasonable accommodation (see Statement #3).

  • If the company is engaging in affirmative action for people with disabilities, such as tracking disability status of its applicant pool to assess hiring efforts. During this situation, you may choose whether to respond or not.

  • If there is objective evidence that you may be unable to do the job, or pose a safety risk because of your condition.

  1. Job Performance. Under the law, you have a legal right to “reasonable accommodation” that would assist you to do your job. This is usually a type of change in how things are usually done at work. Examples of this could be altered breaks and work schedules to allow scheduling work around therapy appointments, quiet office space, changes in supervisory methods such as written instructions from a supervisor who usually does not provide them and permission to work from home.

  2. When should I ask for a reasonable accommodation? Because a business does not have to excuse poor job performance, even if caused by a medical condition or the side effects of medication, it recommended getting the accommodation before any problems occur or get worse. However most people wait until after they have received a job offer, because it can be very difficult to prove illegal discrimination that takes place before a job offer.

  3. After submitting a reasonable accommodation request, your employer may ask for the request in writing. It will need to describe your condition and how it affects your work. You may also be required to submit a letter from your health care provider documenting your condition.

  4. Unable to Function. If you are unable to perform your essential job functions to normal standards and have no leave available, you may be entitled to unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation. You may also request your employer to reassign you to a job that you can do with reasonable accommodations, if a position is available.

  5. Harassment. Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), harassment about your condition is not allowed. Inform your employer about the harassment by following their reporting procedures.

  6. Violated Rights. If your employer does not stop the harassment, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Be aware that there is a time limit, you must a charge of discrimination within 180 days of the alleged violation. Additionally, it is also illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for contacting the EEOC or filing a charge.

If you have any questions or comments, please send me (Daryl Gessner) an email to CartersvilleCounseling@mindspring.com. You can also visit our website for additional articles about mental health and the workplace at www.CartersvilleCounseling.com.

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