According to recent speculation, discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may increase because of a change in the federal law.
The new law expands protection to employees and applicants with mental and psychiatric “disabilities” not previously covered. Furthermore, the EEOC will be more aggressive in enforcing the law. Since more mental conditions are covered, employers may face critical questions (and higher risk) when dealing with employees with psychiatric conditions and not reasonably accommodating them.
The main question that this begs is: How should employers deal with mental issues? Unlike some physical disabilities, mental conditions are less understood and clear in terms of symptomatology.
Now, I’m not an attorney but I do see ways that we can help as an employee assistance program (EAP). EAP:
- has trained mental health professionals who understand psychological impairments
- can assess mental conditions
- can interface with providers and/or experts
- can educate HR and managers
Not only can EAP help you develop and maintain fair workplace practices that reasonably accommodate employees with psychiatric conditions, but it can enable you to invest in excellent employees who are having psychological issues that are interfering with their performance.
Like any other medical problem, mental conditions, if treated, enable workers to miss less work, operate more productively and lower overall medical and disability costs.