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A mental health diagnosis must be recognized as a disability

Many people, especially those who don’t suffer from the often complex limitations of a mental health condition themselves, are often unaware that many commonly known types of mental health concerns are actually categorized as disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The protections and coverage that should be applied to individuals who do suffer from a mental health condition in their workplace was the subject of a publication released in December 2016 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is well summarized here. This information may be very relevant to many people who are entering or returning to the workforce with a severe and persistent mental or emotional health condition, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Common mental health conditions covered by the ADA

There are a large number of different mental health conditions that may qualify for protection under the ADA, although it is often necessary to examine the circumstances on a case by case basis. Some of the most common examples of the types of conditions that are usually protected include the following:

●      Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

●      Schizophrenia

●      Clinical Depression

●      Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

●      Bipolar Disorder

What are your rights in the workplace in California? 

It is important to note that your mental health condition does not need to be of a permanent, constant or completely debilitating degree of severity in order for you to qualify for protection and benefits under the ADA. This is a common misconception that sometimes keeps qualifying workers to assume that they are not protected under California state law or the federal ADA, which in turn can result in situations that would be classified as discrimination if the disability were being properly recognized

Your legal rights may also include some of the following:

●      Job protection - Your employer may not discriminate against you by firing you or forcing you to take leave based solely on your mental health condition. They also may not reject you from a job or promotion based on their lack of knowledge regarding the nature of your condition. 

●      Privacy about your condition - In many instances, your employer can only ask you questions regarding your mental health issue under certain conditions, such as in response to your request for reasonable accommodation in your current position or in the face of objective evidence that your condition might contribute to a safety risk for yourself and/or other employees. 

●      Reasonable accommodation request - At any time, it is your right to request what is called “reasonable accommodation” from your employer. This can include a variety of options that would be specific to your own mental health condition which would make performing your job with your disability easier for you. 

●      Protection from harassment - The ADA prohibits harassment that is based on your disability.  If such harassment occurs in your workplace, you should follow the proper procedures supplied by your employer to report this issue - at this point, it is the legal obligation of your employer to see that the harassment is stopped and preventative measures are taken for the future.

If you believe that you suffer from a mental health condition that is protected by the ADA or if you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with such a condition and have been the victim of discrimination or been denied the rights and benefits protected under the ADA, we encourage you to contact our offices today. This is a complex topic and it can be very beneficial to speak to someone with experience in this area of employment law. Your rights in situations of this nature should not be taken lightly and if you have truly been discriminated against for a protected condition, you deserve to pursue the compensation due to you.

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