Millions of Americans suffer from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you suffer from a mental health condition, the last thing that you should have to worry about is how your condition will affect your career. Unfortunately, many disabled individuals are discriminated against or harassed by their managers, co-workers, and customers. It’s important for you to understand your rights as a mentally disabled employee in California so you know how to protect them if this ever happens to you.
Your Right to Work
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are prohibited from taking an employee’s mental health condition into consideration when making job-related decisions related to hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, and pay raises. For example, an employer cannot decide to fire you because he is notified that you are suffering from depression or another mental health condition.
Being fired or treated unfairly because of a mental health condition is fairly common. This is probably due to the fact that many employers believe stereotypes about people who have mental health conditions. They may think that if you have a mental health condition, you won’t be able to perform your job duties or you are mentally unstable and should not be around other people. But, that’s simply not true. Employees with mental health conditions are able to get along with their co-workers and work just as hard as someone without a disability.
Your Rights During Job Interviews
Because employers cannot make hiring decisions based on whether someone has a mental health condition or not, there are certain questions that they should never ask you during an interview. Employers should not ask you if you have a mental disability, if you are currently taking medications, or what mental health conditions run in your family. However, employees are allowed to ask you questions about your mental health if they have extended a job offer to you and they ask the same questions of all newly hired employees.
Your Rights to Reasonable Accommodations
The ADA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for their disabled employees. A reasonable accommodation is a change that can be made in the workplace to help a disabled employee apply for a job, perform the duties of his job, or enjoy the benefits of his job. For example, an employee with a mental health condition may request that their employer accommodate their therapy appointments. The employer could allow the employee to come in early or stay late to make up for the time that is lost while he is at therapy. Before approving your request, your employer may ask that you put the request in writing or submit a letter from a medical professional that describes why you need a reasonable accommodation.
If you have a mental health condition and have requested an accommodation, your employer must grant your request unless doing so would put an undue hardship on the business. For instance, if allowing you to take time off of work to attend therapy would leave the business understaffed and unable to operate, the request may be denied. Or, if the accommodation you are requesting is too expensive to implement, your employer may say the request is unreasonable. If the request does not create an undue hardship, denying the accommodation is a form of disability discrimination.
Employers cannot fire you because you requested an accommodation. If you make it known during the interview process that you will need an accommodation if you are hired, they cannot decide against hiring you based on this fact alone. If an accommodation request is granted, an employer should never charge you or deduct money from your paycheck for the cost of implementing the accommodation.
Harassment Due to Your Mental Health Condition
People who are suffering from mental health conditions should never be harassed by their co-workers, bosses, or even the company’s clients. Someone who makes an offensive joke about your condition or threatens to harm you because of your disability is harassing you, and this illegal behavior should not be tolerated in the workplace.
Help For Disability Discrimination Victims
Your employer has a legal obligation to protect you from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. But, in order for your employer to do their part, they must be aware of what’s going on. If you have been discriminated against or harassed because of your mental health condition, you must report the behavior to your employer.
Some employers fail to take action to protect their disabled employees from discrimination and harassment. If your employer does not do their part, file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Both of these agencies have the power to investigate the allegations of disability discrimination and enforce either state or federal laws that protect disabled employees.
After the EEOC or DFEH has conducted their investigations, they will either decide to pursue legal action against your employer on your behalf or issue you a notice of right to sue. The notice of right to sue is a legal document that gives you permission to move forward with a lawsuit against your employer completely independent from the EEOC or DFEH. You cannot file a disability discrimination lawsuit against your employer until you have been issued this legal document. If you receive a notice of right to sue, it’s up to you to find an attorney who has the legal skills and experience to present a strong case and help you recover the compensation that you deserve.
Have you been discriminated against because of your mental health condition? If so, seek legal representation from the knowledgeable attorneys at Shegerian & Associates. Schedule a free consultation with our team by calling 1-800-GOT-FIRED or visiting us online.