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Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace – FMLA, ADA, What Employers Need to Know

Businesses have had to confront the fact that the mental health of their employees has a tremendous impact on the workplace and subsequently, on the bottom line. As recently as a decade ago, mental health issues were not a top concern of employers and human resource departments. Today, in part due to the pandemic, it is considered one of the MOST important issue facing businesses.

According to Mental Health America (MHA):

  • 21% of adults are experiencing a mental illness. Equivalent to over 50 million Americans
  • 55% of adults with a mental illness receive no treatment – over 28 million individuals.

What Does This Mean to You?

At some point, you are likely to be confronted with an employee who requires treatment for a mental health condition. If that condition meets certain criteria, it can be considered a serious health condition or a disability which will place certain requirements on the employer as to how they handle the issue. When is an employee’s mental health condition covered by employment regulations?

  • Under The Family & Medical Leave Act [FMLA], employees are covered if they have a serious health condition that requires inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider. This includes mental health conditions.
  • Under the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA], employees are covered if they have a disability which is defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities including things such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and more.

Beyond the regulations themselves, employers should consider ethical and moral factors in choosing how to deal with employees who are suffering. If an employee’s condition is not serious enough to warrant regulatory protection, their condition may still impact their work and their co-workers. Demonstrating empathy and sensitivity to the issue may help the employee obtain the necessary treatment and minimize the impact on the workplace.

What Action Steps Should You Take?

  1. Ensure that you have the knowledge and skills to recognize mental health issues.
  2. Identify what resources you have available as an employer to help employees deal with these issues (such as an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP)).
  3. Review regulations such as FMLA and the ADA to ensure you are remaining compliant in how you address the mental health concerns of your employees.

Click here for an article called “Understanding FMLA Leave for Mental Health Conditions”. This provides an excellent summary of the topic.

In addition, click here for information and resources on Mental Health Conditions related to the ADA as enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Our HR team here at Connor & Gallagher is well equipped to assist you as you navigate this complex issue. Please reach out to me to learn more about our services. We’re always here to help!

Sandra Teague CGO

Sandra Teague, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
President, OneSource Division
Connor & Gallagher OneSource (CGO)

Questions for Sandra? Email info@GoCGO.com 

This blog is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice.

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