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Is mental health included in employment discrimination law?

| Jul 29, 2020 | Employment Discrimination |

Floridians with mental health issues will be relieved to learn that mental health is included in employment discrimination law. This means that your employer cannot discriminate against you solely for having a mental health condition, but there are some cases when an employer can end your employment based on resulting performance.

Understanding your rights and the rights of your employer will help you navigate issues of mental health in the workplace.

Your rights

As the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits all harassment and discrimination based on disability — physical or mental. It protects you from losing your job or facing consequences for stereotypes or misinformation about your condition, meaning that your employer cannot punish you for depression simply because he or she believes that depression makes you lazy and distracted.

You also have the right to keep your condition private in most cases, and your employer cannot ask about it except in a few cases. These include circumstances when he or she will need this information to determine your reasonable accommodations or benefits. If your employer is asking you to disclose private personal information, you may want to investigate whether you have legal recourse.

Finally, you have a right to reasonable accommodations if you need certain conditions to do your job well. Ask for accommodations like a quieter space to work or a modified schedule or method of review. Ask for paid leave if you need it, or a reassignment to another job in the company.

Your employer’s rights

Your employer cannot discriminate against you for your mental health condition, but he or she can fire you or demote you for resulting poor performance in some cases. He or she will need objective evidence of your poor performance, or he or she will need evidence that reasonable accommodations cannot satisfactorily improve your work performance. Your employer can also fire you if he or she can demonstrate that you pose a direct threat to the safety of yourself or others.

If your condition is affecting the quality of your work, it is important to request the accommodations you need before it becomes an issue with your employer. Your employer does not have to keep you if you perform poorly at your job, but he probably does have to help you if you request it before encountering issues.

Your recourse

If your employer discriminates against you, it is important to seek legal help or file a claim quickly. In most cases, you only have a very small window in which to bring a claim. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission only allows 180 days to take legal action in many cases.

Your employer cannot legally retaliate. If he or she does, you may have additional legal recourse.