Should I tell my employer if I have a mental illness?
Well before answering this question let’s take a look at the rules as they pertain to the employer.
[dt_toggle title="If you had to take time off work due to mental illness, can you be fired?"]No. It’s illegal for your employer to not pay you, or fire you, if you’ve had to take time off. Make sure you read your company’s sickness policy, as what you’re entitled to differs from company to company.[/dt_toggle]
[dt_toggle title="Are employers put off by people with mental health issues?"]
In an ideal world, the answer to this would be ‘no’. But, as you’re probably aware already, attitudes towards mental health can still be pretty warped.
Don’t be disheartened, though. Good employers realise that a staff member who’s experienced mental illness such as depression can be an asset. They often have a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses and can help and support other members of staff with similar problems.
[dt_toggle title="Should I even try and work if I’m mentally ill?"]
Only you know what you’re capable of and it might be useful to discuss this further with your GP or counsellor, if you have one. However, most people find the structure of a working day and the fact that they’re contributing something can be helpful.
If you’re open with your employer about your issues, they could take steps to make working life easier for you. Small tweaks, like staggering deadlines, flexitime, and letting you work the odd day from home can make a huge difference.
Employer Perspective – Laws Protecting the Employee
ADA, FMLA, and Work Rule Violations
Many bosses do not like disciplining employees for working rule issues. If the boss doesn’t address the problems then morale and productivity could suffer especially if they relate to absenteeism, disruptive behavior, or drug use.
But what happens if an employee claims that a medical condition “made me do it”? Unfortunately, you can face legal claims for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if you improperly discipline or terminate protected employees who break conduct rules.Just because employees claim that a medical condition is covered under the ADA or FMLA, however, doesn’t mean they get a free pass to violate your work rules. The following discussion explains how these laws may impact your ability to address problem behavior by legally protected employees.
* Absenteeism *
Regular attendance to the office is important for most jobs and employers have the right to discipline and/or fire employees who have problems with attendance or punctuality. The FMLA and the ADA may
limit your right to take these actions for certain cases that are protected by the laws. The FMLA makes it so that employers have to provide eligible employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in any year period for medical or family reasons. You cannot discriminate employees that use FMLA leave and you can’t take employees FMLA leave into account under “no-fault” attendance policy.
So, employers should not fire or discipline employees for:
- Excused Absences under FMLA
- Absences Excused under the FMLA’s provisions.
Thorson v. Gemini, Inc.,
[dt_quote type="blockquote" font_size="normal" animation="none" background="plain"]
205 F.3d 370 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 531 U. S.
871 (2000), the employer violated the FMLA when it terminated an
employee for excessive absenteeism because the absences were
covered under the FMLA.
The ADA requires covered employers to provide:
- Reasonable Accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
- Additional Leave be considered “Excused” absenses
If, however a disabled employee is not able to perform even with accommodation then the absenses would not be protected under ADA
Thus, in Wood v. Green,
323 F.3d 1309 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 982 (2003), the court
determined that an employee who suffered from cluster headaches was
not a qualified individual under the ADA. He requested an indefinite
leave of absence so that he could work at some uncertain point in the
future. The court ruled that since he could not perform the essential
functions of the job presently, or in the immediate future, he was not
covered under the ADA.
Should you tell your employer about a mental health issue like depression or anxiety?
Keeping a job when you’re suffering can be hard, but there are laws protecting you. Before you take employment and you have a mental health issue consider looking to see if it has a ‘two ticks’ symbol; this shows they’re committed to employing people with disabilities and mental health problems.
[dt_progress_bars show_percentage="true"][dt_progress_bar title="Employees with a current mental health issue" color="Red" percentage="18" /][dt_progress_bar title="Employees who have had at least one mental health issue" color="Yellow" percentage="26" /][dt_progress_bar title="Employees having a friend or family member with mental health issue" color="Blue" percentage="77" /][/dt_progress_bars]
It’s illegal for employers to ask you about your mental health until after a job offer is made, so there’s no need to at this stage. You can choose to disclose your condition if you want, and legally a company cannot let this influence their decision. However, if it did sway them against hiring you it would be difficult for you to prove this.
After Starting The Job:
It’s up to you whether you share with employer or not but it would be easier to deal with a mental challenge if your employer’s already aware of your history. Legally, people with mental health issues have the same protection as those with physical disabilities. Although, it’s likely you’ll need a GP to confirm that you have mental health problems. If telling your manager seems scary then you can talk to the human resources (HR) department.
HIPAA Privacy Rules for the Protection of Health and Mental Health Information
[dt_highlight color=""]Mental health providers and other covered entities should not rely on this summary as a source of legal information or advice and should consult with their own attorney or HIPAA Privacy Officer for specific guidance.[/dt_highlight]
This summary provides general information about key elements of laws surrounding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), federal legislation passed in 1996 which requires providers of health care (including mental health care) to assure the privacy of patient records and health data. HIPAA requires the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop laws to encapsulate these privacy requirements, called the Privacy Rule, which became effective on April 14, 2003. State statutes offer more stringent protections of health care privacy and remain in effect even after HIPAA.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule
Provides the first comprehensive Federal protection for the privacy of health and mental health information. The Rule is intended to provide strong legal protections to ensure the privacy of individual health information, without interfering with patient access to treatment, health care operations, or quality of care.
“covered entities” which generally includes health plans and health care providers who transmit health information in electronic form. Covered entities include almost all health and mental health care providers, whether they are outpatient, residential or inpatient providers, as well as other persons or organizations that bill or are paid for health care.
The Privacy Rule protects all “protected health information” (PHI), including individually identifiable health or mental health data that is held or transmitted in any format, including electronic, paper, or oral statements.
A major purpose of the Privacy Rule is to define and limit the circumstances under which an individual’s PHI may be used or disclosed by covered entities.