EEOC Explains ADA Rights Available to Employees With Mental Health Conditions

Author: Rena Pirsos, XpertHR Legal Editor

December 21, 2016

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a document explaining the workplace rights and protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) that are available to employees and job applicants who have mental health conditions: Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights. The resource, which is in a user-friendly question-and-answer format, also serves as a reminder to employers of the actions against such individuals that are considered discriminatory and illegal under the ADA.

According to EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang:

Many people with common mental health conditions have important protections under the ADA. Employers, job applicants, and employees should know that mental health conditions are no different than physical health conditions under the law. In our recent outreach to veterans who have returned home with service-connected disabilities, we have seen the need to raise awareness about these issues. This resource document aims to clarify the protections that the ADA affords employees.

In addition, the publication explains that such employees and job applicants may have the right to be provided with reasonable accommodations at work - adjustments that can help them perform, and ultimately keep, their jobs. The publication also explains how such individuals can ask their employers for an accommodation, describes some types of accommodations, and addresses restrictions on employer access to medical information, confidentiality and the EEOC's enforcement role.

The EEOC notes that its data shows that charges of discrimination based on mental health conditions are increasing. In particular, fiscal year 2016 preliminary data shows that EEOC:

  • Resolved almost 5,000 charges of discrimination based on mental health conditions; and
  • Obtained approximately $20 million for individuals with mental health conditions who were unlawfully denied employment and reasonable accommodations.

The resource document is one in a series of similar EEOC publications that provide individuals with medical conditions or work restrictions with information on their rights and how they can obtain medical documentation their employers may ask them to provide in order to meet their needs.