What are your rights as a California employee regarding your mental health condition?

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Posted by Legal Team On August 15, 2022

California employees diagnosed with mental health conditions have legal rights that protect their jobs. Knowing those rights helps to prevent illegal workplace treatment.

Employees in California who experience mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD may wonder what rights they have under employment law. For instance, do they have an obligation to share their condition with their employer? If a manager or another employee discriminates against an employee with a mental health condition, what form does such discrimination usually take? Besides consulting with a professional familiar with employment law, gaining a rudimentary education on mental health in the workplace can prove beneficial.

Sharing a mental health condition

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under most conditions, employees do not have to disclose their mental health condition if they do not want to. That said, there are situations wherein employers may legally probe deeper about a person’s mental health condition. For instance, an employee may request reasonable accommodation for a condition, such as asking to work from home. There may also exist undeniable proof that a mental illness keeps an employee from performing her or his job, or could be a danger to others. Under either circumstance, employers are well within their rights to ask about a worker’s mental health.

Terminating employees with mental health conditions

Companies do not have have legal grounds to terminate employees or deny them promotions because of mental health conditions. Also, companies cannot make an employee take leave because of a mental health condition. That said, companies do not have to retain employees who cannot perform their job duties because of a mental health condition. Before firing an employee unable to perform her or his job because of depression, anxiety or a similar condition, employers have to have valid proof to back their decision.

Requesting reasonable accommodation 

Workers with mental health conditions have a right to request accommodations that allow them to perform their job duties. For example, a worker may need an adjusted work schedule to attend therapy sessions, or an employee could need special tools or equipment to create a calm and quiet work environment. In terms of timing, employees should request reasonable accommodation before a mental health condition impacts their work performance. Waiting until symptoms begin to impede job performance could be too late; delaying a request may also give an employer grounds for termination due to poor job performance.

Facing harassment because of mental illness

The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids harassment from management or other employees because of a mental health condition. Those who experience harassment fueled by myths or stereotypes should report such instances according to the company’s latest reporting procedures. Legally, companies have to take action on harassment reports.

Workers and companies alike should educate themselves on employment law in California regarding mental health conditions. Consulting with an experienced Bay Area employment law attorney from The Armstrong Law Firm can give you confidence in your case.