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EEOC Has New Psych Guidance

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a guidance underlining the legal rights of workers diagnosed with mental health conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ADA does not define the term “mental health condition.” However, EEOC says that major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder should easily qualify as disabilities covered under the ADA law.

“This is significant because if an employee has an ADA-covered medical condition, then the employer may be legally required to provide some reasonable accommodation to assist the employee in carrying out his or her job duties,” notes attorney Michael D. Pierce of the law firm of Vandeventer Black.

These reasonable accommodations can include altered work and break schedules, special shift assignments, changes in supervisory methods or offering the option to work from home.

To limit possible exposure, employers should require reasonable accommodation requests be made to a specific member of human resources or an appropriate manager, Pierce recommends.

Employers also can ask for medical documentation of a mental illness if the employee seeks time off or another accommodation, or if they exhibit difficulty performing their essential job duties.

Employers may weigh staffing or budgetary constraints when considering if accommodations are reasonable. They must document these options as well as any related interactions with employees.

Pierce warns that employers must tread carefully. “As societal understandings of mental health conditions progress, organizations will be expected to be more conscious of how these conditions impact employees.”

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