Excerpted from a Phelps Dunbar LLP Blog by Mark Fijman
Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are covered under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, unlike physical disabilities, such mental conditions are often not readily apparent or can be misconstrued and offer challenges to employers as to how to reasonably accommodate workers.
In conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has a new Mental Health at Work website, that offers information to employers on how to comply with the law and properly address mental health issues in the workplace. This includes guidance on what questions employers can legally ask employees and what accommodations might allow the employee to perform their job.
Advice to management and supervisors include the following:
- Communication of assignments and instructions in the employee’s preferred learning style (written, verbal, e-mail, demonstration).
- Regularly scheduled meetings with employees to discuss workplace issues and productivity.
- Development of strategies to deal with problems before they arise.
The guidance also includes ways that readily available technology can be used as a reasonable accommodation, such as:
- Tape recorders for recording meetings and training sessions.
- “White noise” or environmental sound machines.
- Handheld electronic organizers and software calendars.
- Remote job coaching, laptop computers and office computer access via remote locations.
The DOL website also includes information on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which is a federal law that generally prevents group health plans that provide mental health or substance use disorder benefits from imposing less favorable benefits than on medical/surgical benefits.
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