EEOC publishes new resource on Mental Health Conditions

Last month (12/16), the EEOC published a new document on mental health conditions in the workplace. It is entitled “Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights”.  It is rather short, and it is helpful for both employers and employees to read.  If you don’t read it, at least check out the 3 points I outlined below.  Most of what the publication contains is old news. That being said, there is nothing more invigorating than a refresher in labor and employment law. So, here are the main takeaways for those of you who manage or supervise employees:

  1. You cannot fire somebody because he or she has a metal condition.

….unless that person cannot perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. The law goes on to state an exception, which is that employers do not have to employ people who, even with an accommodation, pose an objectively direct threat to safety.

  1. You may require an employee with a mental health condition to submit medical documentation offering proof of the condition if a reasonable accommodation is requested.

However, it is generally accepted practice for employers to not force employees to    disclose a precise condition or present sensitive medical records as long as whatever you receive sufficiently describes the limitations and identifies particular accommodations that would allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.

  1. If a reasonable accommodation would help an employee do his or her job, you must give that accommodation unless it involves significant difficulty or expense.

This rule may seem like a way around providing accommodation, but it is not a good idea to make this decision on your own. Most employers are surprised at how significant the difficulty or expense must actually be in order to be exempted from this rule, and the courts will not hesitate to make an inquiry into the position of the company when determining if denial on these grounds is proper.

These are just a few notes from the EEOC’s latest release on these matters. If you have any questions, check out our page on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) or contact us directly.