HR Alert

EEOC Issues Guidance on Mental Disability Discrimination

Guidance Includes Questions and Answers on Employee Rights

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance on the legal rights of employees with mental health disabilities.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), generally applicable to employers with 15 or more employees, prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities (including, among other things, mental impairment) in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations (some type of change in the way things are normally done at work) to qualified individuals with disabilities--including mental disabilities--unless to do so would cause undue hardship.

Note: Many states have their own nondiscrimination laws, which may apply to smaller employers.
Guidance Addresses Depression, PTSD & Other Mental Health Conditions'''
The guidance emphasizes that employees with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or another mental health condition, are protected against discrimination (including, but not limited to, job termination, and being forced to take leave) and harassment because of their condition.

The guidance also explains that, generally, an employer may only ask mental health-related medical questions under the following conditions:

  • When an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation.
  • After it has made an employee a job offer, but before employment begins, as long as everyone entering the same job category is asked the same questions.
  • When it is engaging in affirmative action for people with disabilities, in which case the employee may choose whether to respond.
  • On the job, when there is objective evidence that the employee may be unable to do his or her job or that the employee may pose a safety risk because of his or her condition.

Additionally, the guidance addresses under what circumstances employees may have the right to a reasonable accommodation; provides examples of reasonable accommodations; and provides details regarding employee and employer obligations regarding reasonable accommodations. The guidance also notes the circumstances under which an employee may be entitled to unpaid leave; and what an employee should do if he or she is being harassed because of his or her condition.

Click here to read the text of the guidance.

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