January 25, 2017 Category: Disability Discrimination
After the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission resolved over 5,000 such complaints and collected over $20 million in 2016, the agency released additional guidance about the interplay between mental illness and anti-discrimination laws.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and other mental illnesses are increasingly common, as a growing number of people depend on doctor-prescribed antidepressants, at least from time to time. Severe depression and/or medication side-effects can make it difficult to function at work, which is a frustrating experience for everyone involved. To deal with these negative affects, and hopefully eliminate them, the EEOC suggests that employers obtain as much information as possible about the worker’s condition, try to predict what the employee would be like if the treatment stopped or was significantly curtailed, decide based on the evidence whether an accommodation is needed, and then decide on the action needed.
A number of laws, including Title VII, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, deal with non-physical impairments.
This 1990 law basically guarantees equal opportunity, so employers cannot deny jobs, promotions, raises, and other such items on the basis of disability. To qualify for an accommodation, the worker or potential employee must have a recognized disability and be otherwise qualified for the position.
The ADA has a long list of recognized disabilities, and under this law, basically any verifiable physical, mental, or emotional condition that regularly impairs normal function is “disabling” for ADA purposes. Qualifications obviously vary based on the job, but they can include:
- Attendance: A federal district court recently held that, in most cases, the ability to show up for work is a fundamental job requirement.
- Essential Functions: Some jobs require bending, stooping, leaning, and other physical skills; similarly, some jobs have minimum education and experience requirements. Although current or potential employees who lack these skills can apply for other open positions for which they are qualified, the employer does not have to guarantee a spot.
The phrase “reasonable accommodation” implies compromise and conciliation, but that is normally not the case, because if a worker is entitled to an accommodation, an employer cannot talk its way out of the requirement. Some common accommodations include:
- Modifying equipment, such as providing wheelchair ramps or magnifying equipment,
- Flexible schedule, such as four ten-hour days a week,
- Extending unpaid medical leave, and
- Providing interpreters, readers, or other helpers.
Employers can only deny reasonable accommodations on the grounds of undue hardship. Usually, that means the accommodation would be too difficult or expensive, but it can also mean that the proposed accommodation would be too disruptive to other workers. In any case, the ADA requires employers to engage employees in a dialogue, as there can be no unilateral action.
If an employer or potential employer took adverse action against you or a loved one because of a disability, contact an experienced employment lawyer in San Jose from the Briski Law Firm for a free consultation today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.