Employee Mental Health: Part II

Employee Mental Health: P…

Last month, we addressed strategies for promoting employee mental health. (Get caught up on Part I here.) In this edition, we examine the possibility of amorphous mental health concerns being used to abuse workplace policies.

Savvy employers know to exercise caution and care in dealing with these issues. Certain mental health conditions can be severe enough to qualify as a disability, and individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination under federal and state law. Once a disabled employee notifies an employer of the need for an accommodation, the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) “interactive process” is triggered. This requires the employer to engage in good faith communication with the employee about potential accommodations. A threshold question is whether a particular mental health condition rises to the level of a disability. Under the ADA, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.

In many instances where an employee seeks an accommodation (such as particular days off or other adjustments to attendance policies) based on a condition that is not obvious (such as mental health conditions), the employer can require the employee to obtain documentation from a medical provider to help determine whether the employee has a disability and to confirm specific limitations and the need for accommodation. Reasonable requests for such information may help to differentiate genuine mental health conditions from malingering. However, it is imperative that human resources personnel are appropriately trained for these discussions.

As always, clear policies and consistent enforcement go a long way in curbing abuses. And when in doubt, consulting with an attorney may help in avoiding costly legal disputes.

If you have questions, call us today at 248.477.6300.

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