Does the ADA Protect Against Mental Disabilities?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination. The ADA prohibits disability-related discrimination in the workplace, in public places, in schools, and in the transportation industry. The ADA’s goal is to give individuals with disabilities the same opportunities as people without disabilities have. Disabilities under the ADA aren’t just physical. Many mental health conditions also qualify as protected, according to the act.
Definition of Disability Under the ADA
The ADA protects “qualified individuals with disabilities.” Qualified individuals are people with physical or mental impairments that significantly limit a major life activity. A history of such a disability also qualifies for protection. The ADA will only protect people with major, as opposed to minor, impairments. The disability must significantly restrict activities such as talking, walking, hearing, self-care, learning, working, or performing work tasks. If you have such a disability, your employer must provide reasonable accommodations, so you can perform the job’s essential functions.
The ADA recognizes psychiatric diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder as qualifying disabling conditions. Employees with these disorders or a history of such a disorder have protections from discrimination and harassment under the ADA. They also have privacy rights and the right to reasonable accommodations.
The ADA does protect against psychiatric conditions and mental disabilities. In fact, the ADA National Network has published fact sheets to help people understand their responsibilities toward those with psychiatric disabilities or mental illnesses. These fact sheets debunk myths associated with mental health disorders, explaining that individuals with these disabilities can work effectively, don’t pose a threat to others, and can work while in recovery. The ADA is working hard to dismiss stigmas that surround employees with mental disabilities.
Your Rights as a Worker With a Mental Disability
If you are a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA, you have certain rights and protections in the workplace. It is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you because of your disability in any way. This means your employer cannot fire, demote, or refuse to hire you because of your psychiatric illness if you can fulfill the duties of the job. If you assert your rights under the ADA, such as asking your employer for reasonable accommodations, your employer cannot use this as an excuse to let you go.
You have the right to file a discrimination or harassment claim against your employer if he or she infringes upon your rights according to the ADA. You will first need to take up the issue with your employer or a manager. If the employer does nothing to remedy the situation, file an official complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). From there, you may need to hire an attorney to represent you during mediation with your employer.
A settlement or verdict from a mental disability discrimination case could give you compensation for your lost wages, lost future wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. It could also lead to the reinstatement of your job if your employer terminated you. Learn more about your rights and legal options by contacting an employment lawyer today.