EEOC Issues Workplace Guidance for Addressing Mental Health Conditions
On December 12, 2016 the EEOC issued new guidance to covered employers regarding accommodating mental health conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The new guidance makes clear that the EEOC regards certain mental health conditions as easily qualifying for a duty of reasonable accommodations. These qualifying conditions include: major Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Various accommodations that could be offered to such employees through the interactive process include altered break and work schedules, quiet office space, changes in supervisory methods, specific shift assignments, and working from home. To be clear, if an employee is unable to perform the essential functions of the job even with a reasonable accommodation, discharge is possible, as long as the interactive process has been exhausted. Moreover, there is also a potential basis for relief for the affected employee under the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Family Medical Leave Act. The new EEOC guidance can be found here https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/mental_health.cfm. Employers with questions regarding such accommodations and the complex interaction of these statutory schemes should consult their attorney.