Mental Health Impairments under ADA
Many people with mental health conditions have a right to reasonable accommodations in their workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives protections to individuals with disabilities for equal opportunity in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
The ADA requires that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” to help people with disabilities, including mental health impairments, do their jobs. An individual has a “disability” under the ADA if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or has a history of such an impairment. In many circumstances, small, inexpensive accommodations can make a big difference a person’s ability to do their job effectively.
While many physical impairments and related workplace accommodations may be fairly obvious to others, challenges related to mental health impairments are often not obvious. A range of workplace accommodations are possible depending on the situation and the individual’s needs. A few examples of accommodations for mental health problems are listed below.
- For difficulties with memory: using written checklists and instructions, using electronic organizers, allowing more training time, providing a mentor for daily guidance.
- For organization/time management: using daily, weekly, or monthly task lists, dividing larger tasks into smaller assignments, prioritizing tasks, meeting regularly to discuss progress.
- For stress/emotions: allowing flexible scheduling (breaks, work from home, leave for counseling), allowing the presence of a support animal, encouraging use of stress management techniques.
- For panic attacks: allowing the employee to take a break, allowing use of relaxations techniques or contact with a support person, removing environmental triggers.
Not all people with mental health conditions will need accommodations to do their jobs and some may only need minimal accommodations or may only need them at certain times.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the U.S. Department of Labor, provides free expert guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. If you’re interested in exploring possible accommodations, you can review specific ideas for accommodations by disability, by topic or by limitation through JAN’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) system.
JAN also provides practical information on how to request accommodations from an employer. Additional guidance on requesting accommodations and on the mental health provider’s role is available from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Learn about common mental disorders, including symptoms, risk factors and treatment options. Find answers to your questions written by leading psychiatrists, stories from people living with mental illness and links to additional resources.