Can Employees Request Workplace Accommodations for Mental Health Conditions?
In today’s America, a healthy work-life balance is crucial to lead a good quality of life. Sadly, the U.S. “workaholic” culture can tempt many employees into overplaying their hand in the workforce, often at the detriment of their health and well-being.
While physical injuries and disabilities in the workplace rarely go unrecognized, far less attention is given to employees with mental health conditions. When it comes to requesting reasonable accommodations at work, mental health is an equally important but often overlooked side of the same coin. Can employees request reasonable accommodations under the ADA for mental illnesses?
Keep reading to learn more about requesting reasonable accommodations in the workplace for mental health conditions.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) & Mental Health
Federal employment laws require U.S. employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for mental health conditions in the workplace. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a reasonable accommodation is best defined as “a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done during the hiring process.”
An accommodation is considered reasonable so long as it doesn’t impose an undue burden or hardship on the company. Examples include:
- Flexible scheduling
- Providing assistive technology
- The option to work remotely if needed
- Providing extra break time or frequency
- Granting time off for medical appointments or treatment
Who Is Eligible for Reasonable Accommodations at Work?
Reasonable accommodations are changes in the workplace that allow employees with disabilities, including mental health conditions, to perform the essential functions of their job. To be eligible for reasonable accommodations in the workplace under the ADA, workers must:
- Have a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- Be qualified to perform the essential job functions with or without the reasonable accommodation; and
- Initiate the formal process to receive reasonable accommodations from their employer under the ADA.
8 Mental Health Conditions That Warrant Workplace Accommodations
Various mental health conditions can warrant reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Common mental illnesses eligible for workplace accommodations under the ADA include:
Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease an individual's ability to function at work, school, or home. Symptoms include easily feeling overwhelmed, hopelessness, disinterest in activities once enjoyed, irritability, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and active or passive suicidality.
2. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and behavior. It’s characterized by intense emotions, particularly an oscillation between manic and depressive episodes. Symptoms include bouts of high and low energy, poor sleep, racing thoughts, impulsivity, grandiose thinking, talkativeness, irritability, a sense of worthlessness or guilt, and cognitive impairments.
3. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that involve excessive fear and worry. They can interfere with daily activities, such as school, work, or socializing. Affected employees can experience physical symptoms—such as sweating, trembling, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath—and cognitive symptoms, such as indecisiveness, difficulty concentrating, poor processing skills, and impaired memory.
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by persistent and intense psychological symptoms after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms include flashbacks of the traumatic event, recurring nightmares, feelings of distress or fear when exposed to triggers (reminders of the trauma), negative changes in thought and mood, and sleep disturbances.
5. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessions (recurrent and distressing thoughts, images, or urges) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors or rituals). Other symptoms include intrusive thoughts, hoarding, and irrational concerns regarding safety or orderliness.
6. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. It's characterized by difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and impaired executive functioning. Symptoms include distractibility and restlessness, trouble focusing on tasks at hand, poor decision-making skills, difficulties getting along with peers or family members, and being easily frustrated or overwhelmed.
7. Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are mental health conditions characterized by abnormal eating patterns, distorted thoughts about body shape and weight, and intense fear of gaining weight. These behaviors can lead to severe physical and psychological consequences if left untreated. Common eating disorders include:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge-eating disorder
Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental health disorder that affects how a person feels, thinks, and behaves. It can interfere with a person's ability to manage emotions, make decisions, and interact with others. Common symptoms include a distorted perception of reality, hallucinations, and delusions, difficulty focusing, memory problems, and challenges with planning and organizational skills.
Common Accommodations for Mental Health Conditions
Some of the most common accommodations requested by employees with mental health conditions include:
- Flexible hours or modified work schedules
- Reduced workload or modified job duties
- Job coaching or training
- Noise-canceling headphones or other sensory modifications
- Time off for medical appointments or to attend therapy sessions
- Private office or workspace
- Alternate communication methods
- Assistance with organizing workload and prioritizing tasks
How to Request Workplace Accommodations for Mental Health Conditions
Employees with mental health conditions may be eligible to receive reasonable accommodations at work. Those interested must make their request to their employer in writing, after which the employer is obligated to grant the request permitted the accommodation is appropriate and doesn’t impose an undue hardship on the company.
Bettering the Lives of Employees Since 1980
Our firm has a proven track record of success representing wronged workers in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. When employees experience cruelty or mistreatment in the workplace, they turn to our passionate employment law attorneys at Donati Law, PLLC for counsel they can trust. We understand the drastic impact that intolerance and injustice can have on hardworking employees and their families.
With over 150 years of collective experience, our employment lawyers are well-equipped to represent workers throughout the Mid-South in a variety of employment law cases, from wrongful termination to retaliation. You can count on us to guide your legal steps with wisdom and care while providing the strong advocacy you deserve in court. Don’t wait to fight for the justice and compensation you’re rightfully entitled to.
Were you mistreated in the workplace? Our passionate firm is committed to protecting your rights. Call (901) 209-5500 to schedule a consultation.