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What are My Rights for Mental Health in the Workplace?

Mental health discrimination in the workplace is unethical and illegal, and workers with mental illnesses have protection under the law. Despite this, mental health discrimination in the workplace persists. The problem is that this type of discrimination is difficult to prove or even detect. Mental health discrimination in the workplace will generally take one of three forms:

  • Discriminatory actions, such as:
    • Being excluded from travel or other events because of phobias
    • Not being given assignments that could aggravate anxiety
    • Being demoted or overlooked for a promotion due to mental illness
    • Being fired for using company time for doctor visits, therapy appointments, hospital stays, or doctor-advised time off
    • Being demoted for taking time off to care for a family member with a mental illness
  • Harassment, such as:
    • Being mocked by co-workers or superiors, whether by oral, written, or physical means, such as gestures that relate to the mental illness
    • Overhearing derogatory terms or names
  • Retaliation can happen when a worker with mental illness reports the discrimination or takes action to end the discrimination. It could take the form of:
    • Exclusion from meetings or projects after reporting the discrimination to Human Resources
    • Verbal harassment or bad performance reviews by a superior related to the discrimination complaint
    • Not receiving a promotion or raise, or given a different job or title after a discrimination complaint
    • Being moved to a different location in the department after making a complaint

What are My Rights Regarding Mental Health in the Workplace?

Federal and state laws protect workers with mental illnesses or who take care of family members with mental illnesses. These laws include the following:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This Act protects workers with physical or mental disabilities in companies with 15 or more employees. The ADA states that employers cannot treat someone with a mental illness differently from others in the same job. Specifically, an employer should not use a mental health diagnosis in decisions related to training, promotion, transfers, discipline, lay-off, termination, and pay.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): Among other things, the FLSA makes it unlawful for an employer to pay a person with a mental illness less than a person without a mental illness performing the same job duties. The Department of Labor has mental health toolkits to help employers comply with federal labor laws related to mental health in the workplace.
  • Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC): This federal agency enforces fair workplace practices, including those for mentally ill workers. Employees can report mental health discrimination, unfair labor practices, and related workplace issues to the EEOC to take their case to the federal level.

Must Employers Comply with Reasonable Accommodations?

Both the ADA and the EEOC allow employees to ask for reasonable accommodations at work to address their mental illness. It requires an employer to comply with the requests as long as they do not result in business hardship or violations. Reasonable accommodation requests may include having a support dog at work, working from home, being placed in a quiet area, or being allowed to wear headphones to drown out noise.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Advocate for Victims of Mental Health Discrimination

Discrimination against employees with mental illness is illegal. Employees who care for family members with a mental illness also have rights under the law. If you feel your rights have been violated, contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We help employees with mental illnesses obtain fair and just compensation under the law when they are victims of discrimination in the workplace. For an initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-574-0600. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.