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EEOC Issues ADA Informal Guidance to Employees for Mental Health Conditions

This month the EEOC published new informal guidelines for employees with mental health conditions, advising them of their rights to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.  The publication is aimed at workers with major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and other mental health conditions that if left untreated “substantially limit” the employee’s ability to concentrate, interact with others, communicate, eat, sleep, care for themselves, regulate their thoughts or emotions, or do any other “major life activity.”

The EEOC’s guidance serves as a reminder to employers and employees that the basic framework of the ADA is generally applicable to these employees, just as it would be for any qualifying physical condition.  These include the right to privacy about their condition and the right to request a reasonable accommodation.  Some examples of reasonable accommodations listed include

  • Altered break and work schedule,
  • Quiet office space or devices that create a quiet work environment,
  • Changes in supervisory methods (e.g., providing an employee with written instructions when typically only verbal instructions are provided),
  • Specific shift assignments,
  • Working from home, and
  • Paid or unpaid leave.

Employers should note that while they cannot rely on myths or stereotypes about mental health conditions, EEOC states that if an employer has objective evidence that a worker cannot perform the essential duties of their position with a reasonable accommodation, or that the worker would create a significant safety risk, the worker can be rejected from that job.  However, the EEOC advises that reassignment to an available position with essential job duties the worker can perform should be considered as an accommodation.

The EEOC’s guidelines can be found here: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/mental_health.cfm

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