woman in psychotherapy

Mental Health and Reasonable Accommodations

By Douglas Lipsky

Mental health is vital for employee well-being in the workplace, yet it’s often overlooked. Recognizing this, laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and specific New York State legislations are crucial in safeguarding employees’ mental health rights. 

These laws ensure that workers with mental health conditions receive reasonable accommodations, reflecting a growing acknowledgment of mental health’s importance. This blog aims to clarify these legal provisions and guide employees in navigating their rights related to mental health in the workplace.

The ADA and Mental Health

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is crucial in addressing mental health in the workplace. Here’s how:

  • Broad Definition of Disability: The ADA recognizes mental health conditions as disabilities if they significantly impact one or more major life activities.
  • Reasonable Accommodations: It mandates employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with mental health disabilities.
  • Non-Discrimination: Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on their mental health conditions.

This federal law ensures that workers with mental health issues can seek accommodations without fear of discrimination, fostering an inclusive work environment. Understanding these protections empowers employees to advocate for their rights and enables employers to support their workforce appropriately.

New York Laws On Mental Health In The Workplace

New York laws augment the protections offered by the ADA regarding mental health in the workplace:

  • The New York State Human Rights Law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with mental health conditions. It also prohibits discrimination based on these conditions.
  • The New York City Human Rights Law offers even broader protections. It is known for its robust stance against discrimination, including in mental health cases, and may require accommodations beyond those stipulated by the ADA.

Both New York State and City laws work in conjunction with the ADA, often providing additional layers of protection. This ensures that employees with mental health conditions in New York have solid legal backing to support their needs in the workplace.

Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

Requesting reasonable accommodations for mental health in the workplace involves a collaborative process between the employee and employer. Here are some common types of accommodations:

  • Flexible Scheduling: Adjust work hours or breaks to accommodate therapy appointments or manage symptoms.
  • Remote Work Options: Allowing work from home to help manage anxiety or other mental health conditions.
  • Modified Work Environment: Changes to the physical workspace or use of supportive technology.
  • Temporary Workload Adjustments: Reducing or modifying work tasks during periods of high symptom intensity.

Employees should initiate the conversation with their employer or HR department, providing necessary medical documentation and clearly stating their needs. It’s a negotiation process aiming to find a solution that supports the employee’s mental health while maintaining workplace productivity. Employers are encouraged to approach these requests with sensitivity and a willingness to find mutually beneficial accommodations.

How An Attorney Can Help

An employment attorney can be instrumental in navigating the complexities of mental health accommodations in the workplace. They offer specialized knowledge of the ADA, New York State, and New York City laws, ensuring that your request for accommodations is framed in a way that aligns with legal standards. 

An attorney can assist in communicating with your employer if there’s resistance. Additionally, if disputes arise or your rights are infringed upon, an attorney can represent your interests, ensuring that your case is appropriately handled and your rights are protected. Seeking legal advice can be crucial in securing the necessary accommodations for your mental health needs.

Get The Mental Health Accommodations You Need And Deserve

If you’re facing challenges in receiving reasonable accommodations or encountering workplace discrimination related to mental health, Lipsky Lowe is here to help. Our team can guide you through the legal intricacies and advocate for your rights, ensuring that your mental health needs are met under the law. Contact us today.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.