Mental Health Issues: ADA, FMLA and Reasonable Accommodation

Employee mental health issues are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act. What that means to you the employer or HR professional is that if an employee of an organization with 15 or more employees has a mental health condition, they are likely eligible for a reasonable accommodation. In laymen’s language that really means that an employer is obligated to help or accommodate an employee with a mental health condition to do their job as long as the help does not cause an undue or extreme hardship.

Why is this important?

1 in 4 adults – approximately 57.7 million Americans – experience a mental health disorder each year. ADA specifically states that it applies to employees with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity;

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can also come in to play– In some situations, employers with mentally disabled employees will need to provide employees with an FMLA leave of absence to deal with their mental disability as a part of a reasonable accommodation.

More employees are attempting to base ADA claims on job-related stress, such as difficult working conditions or an uncompromising supervisor.

Common disorders include:

  1. Depression
  2. Bipolar disorder
  3. Panic
  4. Obsessive-compulsive
  5. PTSD
  6. Generalized anxiety disorder

When disciplining or accommodating an employee with a mental disorder, employers should be knowledgeable about how courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission views mental disorders as a disability. There are different legal camps regarding what the law says an employer can and cannot do.

Managers should be trained on how to handle requests for accommodations. Specifically, managers should know:

  1. When accommodations can be requested;
  2. What should be considered a request;
  3. Examples of what types of requests may be made;
  4. What is not considered a reasonable request; and
  5. How to engage in the interactive process or to whom to direct the employee so this process can take place if needed.

The Employment Law Solution: McFadden Davis, LLC. ELS is a boutique employment law firm focusing on serving business clients. We provide proactive strategies to minimize risks and pragmatic solutions to resolve issues.

For additional information and guidance on Mental Health and accommodations or leave requests, please contact ELS for assistance. Employers and HR professionals can reach us at 678.424.1380 or