ADA & Disabilities

Mental Illness in the Workplace: ADA, EAPs, and Other Answers

Depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions in the workplace have both legal (ADA) and human implications. Here are two programs to help deal with them.

The recent violence-driven emphasis on dealing with mental health issues in the workplace has again put HR on the spot. How does a company deal with disabilities that are frequently invisible and undetectable, and often hidden by the employee involved, until an incident occurs?

The challenges are both legal and human-centered. Fortunately, there are programs to deal with both facets of the problem.

The legal side involves compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, mental illness is a disability no less than is a physical illness, and those who suffer from it are entitled to the same rights, which means their employers must meet the same obligations.

The problem with the ADA, in the opinion of many, is its vagueness … the product of trying to write a law that fits all situations and, in doing so, omitting specifics for any one. EEOC has, however, given some guidance on dealing with what it calls “psychiatric disabilities.” Here’s a quick summary from BLR’s comprehensive reference for dealing with the ADA, The Complete Guide to ADA Compliance.

–All mental problems are not disabilities under the ADA. Bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders, and other conditions that affect one or more major life activities are among those considered covered. Sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, and disorders created by illegal drug use are among those that are not.

–Stress on its own is not a covered disability. But it can be if a by-product of other disabilities.

–There are many reasonable accommodations available for mental disorders. These include measures such as changing hours or allowing use of accrued leave for treatment or recovery, or transfer into another equivalent pay and status position that is less impacted by the condition.

–Employer responsibilities for reasonable accommodation do not include meeting all the employee’s needs. For example, employers are not responsible for medication being taken as prescribed.

The Complete Guide to ADA Compliance goes far deeper into all aspects of the ADA, including how to make sure your policies, procedures, and operations meet the law’s complex guidelines, and how the ADA interacts with other key laws, including the FMLA, workers’ compensation, and relevant state statutes of all 50 states. If you’ve never evaluated your program against ADA mandates, we highly recommend this program.

Evaluate The Complete Guide to ADA Compliance free for 30-days. Click here for info.

Handling the Human Side: EAPs

From the human standpoint, many employers recognize that any condition that hinders performance harms not only the worker but also organizational productivity. In fact, some studies show as much as $7,500 a year of productivity lost per worker suffering a mental health-related condition.

One strategy to forestall this is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which usually relies on contracted, off-site professionals to offer confidential counseling and referrals. Expert opinion is that an EAP can reduce absenteeism and tardiness by up to 10 percent, and increase productivity up to 25 percent. EAPs, of course, may not be able to help the most severe cases, but they often can assist the individual and his or her family in finding appropriate help.

To further acquaint you with EAPs, BLR will hold a special EAP audio conference on May 30. Presenters will be William R. Heffernan and James B. Wallace, both executives of national EAP providers. Their discussion will include how to select EAP providers, and the legal and operational aspects of implementing an EAP in your workplace. They’ll also offer metrics to measure effectiveness.

Both The Complete Guide to ADA Compliance and the EAP audio conference are offered on a satisfaction assured basis. The book may be tried free for 30 days. The conference fee is fully refundable, if dissatisfied in any way. A CD is available for those unable to listen in on that day.

For more information, or to order either of these programs, click the links below.

Learn what you need to know about both in regard to handling mental disabilities on the job. Try BLR’s The Complete Guide to ADA Compliance free for 30 days (click here), or attend our May 30 audio conference on EAPs (click here). Both are stisfaction-assured!