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Accommodating psychiatric disabilities in the workplace

Employers and workers in Minneapolis may understand that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects disabled persons from discrimination in the workplace. However, these disabilities take many forms, and not all of them are readily visible. Many people may not be aware that the ADA also provides protection for workers who suffer from some mental health conditions.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there must be evidence that a person is qualified to perform job duties whether or not reasonable accommodation is provided. But, it must be demonstrated that the untreated condition causes impairment and difficulty completing work duties.

Because a person with an illness may require frequent appointments with a mental health professional or occasional hospitalization, unpaid leave may be necessary as an accommodation. An employee who qualifies for the Family Medical Leave Act may receive protection under this federal law when an extended period of medical leave is necessary.

Suggested reasonable accommodations that may be helpful to some workers include a reduction in stimuli in the work area, communications that meet the individual worker’s needs, schedule and location flexibility and special training.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy points out that workplace needs vary based on the mental disability. Therefore, supervisors should discuss what accommodations would be beneficial to the individual employee. Arranging these is not typically expensive, and they often provide extensive benefits to the employer due to increased productivity and improved job performance.

Roughly one in five people suffer from a psychiatric disability. By working with employees who are affected, employers reduce the risk of negative consequences that these conditions could have on the U.S. workforce if they are left unacknowledged.

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