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Mental Illness in the Workplace

West Chester employment law lawyers advocate for dealing with mental illness on the job.When a worker informs their employer that they are ill, they can experience many kinds of reactions. In the best-case scenarios, the company treats them with respect and offers support. This does not always happen, though. In situations where a worker is dealing with mental illness, their co-workers and supervisors may be less supportive.

Mental health issues impact workplaces and end up costing everyone money. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that individuals suffering from depression cost companies between $17 and $44 billion dollars yearly, plus 200 million lost days of work.

Depression is just one type of mental illness. Many segments of society have a stigma against mental illness, usually because they do not understand it. Although most are familiar with diseases like cancer and heart problems, they are not educated about mental health diseases.

Two Opposing Stories

A young male employee was doing well at his company, but was then hospitalized with bipolar disorder. Upon his return, his colleagues treated him differently by making inappropriate comments and the like. He eventually lost his job. Fortunately, he landed another job at a nonprofit, teaching others about his disorder.

A female employee who was experiencing a mental health crisis needed to take time off. She emailed her CEO, explaining that she needed a few days for her mental health. Her boss replied, commending her. She then tweeted the conversation, which went viral. People were pleased to see that she was willing to be honest about her condition, and even happier that this CEO answered in such a positive way.

Employee Rights

Statistics show that twenty percent of adults in the U.S. have some form of mental illness. The founder and CEO of Mind Share Partners says that almost no one is completely mentally healthy, and this status changes throughout one’s lifetime. Americans spend almost a third of their lives working, and it is inevitable that many on the job are facing mental issues.

These individuals are entitled to certain rights in these situations. A company has to provide the employee with reasonable accommodations for their condition. Employees can also take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if faced with a mental health crisis.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that companies cannot fire employees, pass them over for promotions, or make them stop working for psychiatric reasons. Furthermore, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act specifies that health insurance should provide adequate mental health care benefits.

Helpful Resources

Speaking up about mental health can be intimidating for many. However, there are resources that offer help, like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Consulting with a mental health professional and getting a report is a first step towards solving this dilemma. This can then be taken to the company’s human resources department.

If an employer is concerned about an employee’s mental health, they should contact human resources. It is not always clear that a person is experiencing mental health issues, but if the employer notices behavioral changes, this could be a sign. If these behaviors are affecting the employee’s work, it might be time to seek help.

If you are concerned with a workplace mental health claim, contact an employment lawyer from MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser at 484-318-7106 or complete our online form. Our office is in West Chester, Pennsylvania, from which we serve clients in Philadelphia, and Chester County.