Citing a big increase in complaints about mental health disability discrimination, the EEOC is taking new steps to teach employees suffering from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions about their workplace rights.
The EEOC’s goal: Take mental disabilities out of the shadows and encourage employees and applicants to demand their legally allowed accommodations for their conditions.
Advice: Make sure HR andrealize the ADA requires your organization to offer “reasonable accommodations” to help workers with both physical and mental impairments do their jobs. That can include an altered work schedule, a revised break schedule, time off for treatment, elimination of a nonessential job duty or even telework.
It’s the employee’s duty to ask—either to HR or the supervisor—for the accommodation and cite the reason. Encourage managers to pass along such requests to HR. Then, it’s up to the organization to engage in an interactive discussion to arrive at a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC says you must provide an accommodation unless it “involves significant difficulty or expense.”
What’s new? The EEOC just released a step-by-step guide for workers, Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights.
“Employers, job applicants, and employees should know that mental health conditions are no different than physical health conditions under the law,” said outgoing EEOC Chair Jenny Yang.
The EEOC made clear that employees’ conditions do not need to be permanent or severe to be determined “substantially limiting” enough to qualify as ADA disabilities. Mental conditions may qualify, the EEOC says, if they make activities “more difficult, uncomfortable or time-consuming to perform compared to the way that most people perform them.”
This guidance comes on the heels of new 2016 data showing that the EEOC resolved almost 5,000 charges of discrimination based on mental health conditions.
Bottom line: Expect more applicants and employees with mental health ailments to know their rights and begin requesting specific accommodations. Get educated on the law and teach your management team using the tools below.
Find links to the EEOC guidance (explanation of employee rights and reasonable accommodation guidance), plus answers to 5 key questions on accommodating mental disabilities, at www.theHRSpecialist.com/EEOCmental.
To teach your managers about their duties under the ADA, access our Memo to Managers article at www.theHRSpecialist.com/managerADA.