Is Mental Health Protected By Disability Discrimination Laws?
People with the right skills, experience and other necessary qualifications to successfully perform a job should be given a fair opportunity for employment without regard to their medical condition. If you have a medical condition, as long as that condition does not significantly prevent you from producing results, the exact nature of your condition should not and cannot be held against you.
Whether you suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or another type of mental health condition, you are entitled to protection against discrimination and harassment at work. You are also entitled to privacy rights in the workplace, and you may have a legal right to request reasonable accommodations to help you perform your job.
Can I Keep My Mental Health Condition Private?
Can An Employer Fire Me Because Of My Mental Health Condition?
What If My Mental Health Condition Requires Special Accommodations?
How Do I Request A Reasonable Accommodation?
What If I’m Harassed Because Of My Condition?
For the most part, yes. An employer can only ask you specific medical questions in the following situations:
Absolutely not. An employer cannot discriminate against you because of your mental health condition. This includes firing you, forcing you to take a leave, or denying you a job or promotion because of your disability. However, an employer doesn’t have to hire or keep an employee in a job that he or she is not capable of successfully performing. An employer is also not obligated to employ anyone who poses a safety threat.
To further clarify, an employer is not allowed to refer to stereotypes about a mental health condition when determining whether you are capable of performing a job or whether you are a safety risk. An employer cannot deny you a job based on your mental health condition, unless it has objective evidence that you are incapable of successfully performing your job duties or that you are a safety risk, even if you are provided an accommodation.
You may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation for a mental health condition that would, if not treated, significantly limit your ability to:
Your mental condition does not necessarily have to be severe enough, or permanent, to be significantly limiting. Your condition may qualify if it makes daily activities more challenging, uncomfortable, or time consuming in comparison to most people. And if your symptoms are inconsistent, meaning that they come and go, what matters most is how limiting they are for you when they are present.
The following mental health conditions typically qualify as significantly limiting:
If you have a significantly limiting mental health condition, you may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is a change or modification to how things are normally done in a workplace. There are many examples of possible accommodations including:
You must ask for it. Notify your supervisor or HR manager that you need a change because of your medical condition. You are in your right to ask for a reasonable accommodation at any time. In general, it is recommended to request a reasonable accommodation as soon as possible, before any issues occur or worsen. It is also important to recognize that an employer is not obligated to excuse poor job performance, even if it was caused by your medical condition or any side effects caused by medication. Therefore, it is in your best interests to address the issue as soon as you begin employment.
At this point, your employer may ask for your request in writing. They generally may ask you to describe your condition and how it affects your ability to complete your job duties. Further, your employer may request a letter from your doctor or health care provider that documents your mental health condition and explains your need for an accommodation to complete your necessary job duties.
However, you may not want your employer to know about your specific diagnosis. In this case, documentation that describes your condition in more general terms, such as a letter that states you simply have an “anxiety disorder” may suffice. Finally, your employer may ask your doctor or health care provider about which specific accommodations would help you complete your job duties.
Under the ADA, any harassment based on your disability is not allowed. You must notify your employer about any harassment if you want the problem to stop. If you choose to report the harassment, you must follow your employer’s reporting procedures. Once you make a report, your employer is legally required to investigate your complaint and take any necessary action to prevent the problem from happening again.
If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The disability discrimination lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling disability discrimination cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.
We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a disabilty discrimination attorney in California, contact our office at 1-800-247-9235.
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