Employers may see an uptick in requests for accommodations of mental disabilities, and healthcare providers may be asked to fill out yet more paperwork, as a result of two new publications issued by the EEOC last week.
The first, Depression, PTSD & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights, advises employees with mental health disabilities of their rights and their employer’s obligations. It provides examples of possible accommodations and specific instructions for how and when employees should request accommodations.
Physicians, psychologists and other healthcare providers may well be inundated, as the publication also suggests that employees provide healthcare providers with a copy of the companion EEOC publication, The Mental Health Provider’s Role in a Client’s Request for a Reasonable Accommodation at Work, which outlines when and how healthcare providers should assist patients with securing accommodations. Healthcare providers should expect a wave of new requests to document patients’ conditions, the functional limitations, how requested accommodations would help, and even to intuit when “the requested accommodation would be too difficult or costly for the employer to provide.”
The EEOC says mental healthcare providers should anticipate providing documentation showing:
- The providers’ professional qualifications and the nature and length of relationship with the client.
- The nature of the client’s condition (even if the client is currently not experiencing symptoms).
- The client’s functional limitations in the absence of treatment, including a description of “the extent to which the condition would limit a brain or neurological function, or another major life activity (e.g., concentrating, interacting with others, eating, sleeping, learning, reading, communicating, or thinking), in the absence of therapy, medication, and any other treatment.” If the symptoms of the condition come and go or are in remission, the provider should describe the limitations during an active episode.
- The need for a reasonable accommodation, including an explanation of how the client’s condition makes changes at work necessary; i.e., “explain how the client’s symptoms – as they actually are, with treatment – make performing the function more difficult” and why the patient may need particular accommodations.
- Suggested accommodations.
Preliminary EEOC data indicates there have been more than 5,000 charges of discrimination based on mental health conditions in 2016. These two new publications are consistent with the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2017-2021 adopted in October, which included a focus on eliminating both barriers in recruitment and hiring for persons with disabilities, and qualification standards and leave policies that discriminate against such persons.
Requests for ADA accommodations for mental health conditions are likely to increase, so employers and healthcare providers should have a process for handling them consistently. Akerman can assist clients in developing such processes, including forms for use by both employers and healthcare providers.