5 tips for accommodating depression, PTSD, and other mental illnesses

October 15, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Mark Wiletsky

An estimated 16.1 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2015, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). That number represents 6.7 percent of all American adults who are 18 or older. Seven or eight out of every 100 people will have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives, says the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Center for PTSD. That number increases to somewhere between 11 and 20 out of every 100 veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  Head with gears

As the numbers show, depression, PTSD, and other mental illnesses are relatively prevalent in our society. At some point, you will be faced with an employee who suffers from a mental condition. You need to know your obligations with regard to potential accommodations for employees with mental disabilities.

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Top 10 employer mistakes in accommodating disabled employees

September 17, 2017 1 COMMENTS

by Matthew A. Goodin

Even experienced HR professionals have a difficult time with requests for reasonable accommodation from disabled employees. This process is even trickier if the employee needs a leave of absence as an accommodation because of the intersection of different laws that govern leaves of absence. Below are some of the most common mistakes employers make when accommodating employees with disabilities. Recognizing and avoiding these mistakes will go a long way toward preventing unwanted litigation.    TOP 10. Rainbow splash paint

1. Not having adequate job descriptions

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Employer can insist that ‘doctor’s note’ come from a doctor

July 16, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Jennifer Suich Frank and Samuel D. Kerr

Q One of our employees went to a holistic healer who isn’t a certified healthcare practitioner, and he advised her that she needs a week off work. He won’t write her a doctor’s excuse and will only speak to someone via telephone. Our attendance policy states that missing that much work requires a doctor’s note. Are we violating the employee’s rights if we discipline her for an attendance policy violation?  Woman lying face down having cupping acupuncture, mid section

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Dealing with hidden disability: Navigating protections for workers with addictions

June 18, 2017 0 COMMENTS

Employers generally understand their obligations related to legal protections for people with disabilities. But not all disabilities are obvious, sometimes not even to those afflicted. Such may be the case when employees suffer from addiction to prescription drugsa problem that’s been in the spotlight lately. And with good reason: The costs employers face related to such addictions are staggering.  Medicine sales man rep offering pills

For example, an analysis released in March claims that healthcare costs for employees who misuse or abuse prescription drugs are three times the costs for an average employee. The analysis is from the National Safety Council, independent research institution NORC at the University of Chicago, and Shatterproof, a nonprofit organization working to end the stigma of addiction and support families dealing with it. The groups have developed a Substance Use Cost Calculator to help employers understand the impact of addiction on their business.

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Service animal or pet? When Rover comes to work

May 14, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Erica E. Flores

For decades, service animals were used almost exclusively to assist the blind and, in that role, were aptly known simply as guide dogs or seeing-eye dogs. But times have changed. Today, dogs and other service animals—including monkeys, parrots, and miniature horses—are being trained to provide a remarkable variety of services to individuals with disabilities. They can alert the hearing impaired to household and environmental sounds, warn epileptics of oncoming seizures, calm children and adults with autism, signal diabetics of changes in their insulin levels, and, increasingly, provide comfort and companionship to people with a wide range of mental and emotional disabilities, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What does that mean for employers?   Pit Bull Wearing Service Dog Vest

Emotional support animals?

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Distracted worker may be entitled to ‘disability’ accommodation

May 14, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Robert P. Tinnin, Jr.

Q One of our workers has been with the company for about three years. From the outset, he has been an outstanding performer. About four months ago, however, he went through a divorce, which appears to have had a major impact on him, and he seems distracted. Both the quantity and the quality of his work have suffered demonstrably. I have given him two written warnings that he must improve both the quantity and quality of his work or face discharge. The last warning was about a month ago, and I have seen no improvement. Can I terminate him now for poor performance?  Group of multi-tasking creative people working in the office.

A Before doing so, make every effort to determine whether he might be “disabled” within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and explore accommodations for his condition.

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Questions and answers on accommodating employees with mental disabilities

April 16, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Jonathan R. Mook

The following article answers some common questions about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) recently promulgated guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and mental health conditions.

Q Why should employers review the EEOC’s mental health guidance?  Head with gears

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Even under ADAAA, being ‘ill-tempered’ is not a disability

April 16, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Rozlyn Fulgoni-Britton

Ever since the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) became law and substantially expanded the definition of “disability,” employers have been warned not to focus on whether an employee has a disability when evaluating reasonable accommodations. While that warning is valid, it is not absolute, and employers should not completely skip evaluating whether an employee has a disability. Even the 9th Circuit, where employees typically fare relatively well, has found that “cantankerous” and “ill-tempered” employees who are disciplined for treating coworkers and subordinates inappropriately do not have a disability that substantially limits the major life activity of interacting with others.  Angry boss

Facts

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Dealing with the unseen: Tips for traversing legal terrain of hidden disabilities

March 19, 2017 0 COMMENTS

Work can be stressful for anyone, and employers are wise to ease the burdens when possible in the interest of maintaining productivity and the general well-being of the workforce. But disabilities can complicate the issue, especially when the disability isn’t obvious.  man with stressed face expression brain melting into lines

Human resources professionals may be well aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the ADA Amendments Act that broadened the law’s protections in many cases, require employers to provide qualified employees who have a disability an opportunity to be productive at work by engaging in the “interactive process” and providing “reasonable accommodations.”

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ADA interactive process: When does your obligation to engage begin?

January 15, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Susan Hartmus Hiser

Q We have an employee whose work performance has been slipping lately. We have reason to believe that she is suffering from depression because she was diagnosed as bipolar and had a bout of depression a few years ago that led to a similar decline in her work performance. We allowed her to work a modified schedule for a brief period while she was being treated by her therapist. She hasn’t requested another accommodation recently. Can we discipline her, up to and including termination, based on her performance, or do we need to take steps to address her depression under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?   depressed businessman at office working on computer asking for help

A Both the ADA and many state laws place the initial burden on the employee to inform her employer of a need for an accommodation. However, in the situation you describe, given the employee’s history of depression and her attendant performance issues, a court could find that your company was on notice of her need for an accommodation, even though she didn’t request one. That’s particularly true since she required an accommodation to address her performance issues the last time she had a bout with depression. When an employer has knowledge of an employee’s disability, she need not use the word “accommodation” to trigger the ADA obligation of engaging in the interactive process.

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