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Know your rights regarding work and mental health issues

Mental health issues are very common. However, many people still don't realize that their mental health conditions are entitled to the same workplace protections that physical disabilities are accorded through the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has also published information to help spread awareness of the rights of mentally ill employees.

Here's what you should know:

1. You do need to provide your employer with medical information.

While it may feel awkward or even intrusive to have to give your employer information about your mental health, you need to give them enough information to support your request for accommodation under the ADA and assert your right to protection.

For example, if you're asking your employer to allow you to bring a support animal into the office to calm your anxiety and panic attacks, you will have to provide them with proof of your need for this accommodation.

2. Your employer cannot discriminate against you based on stereotypes.

As long as you can do your job with reasonable accommodation, your employer cannot use your mental health condition to "stereotype" you out of your position.

For example, if you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from your time in military service, your employer can't decide that you are unsafe around the public because of the stereotype that veterans with PTSD are prone to outbursts of violence.

3. You have to assert your right to reasonable accommodations.

Your employer cannot be blamed for failing to accommodate your condition if you don't assert your rights and ask for what you need.

It's also important to understand that your request must be reasonable for the situation. For example, some reasonable accommodations that might help with mental health issues include transferring to a position where there is less noise, a modified work schedule that allows you to attend therapy and changes to your office space that allows you more privacy.

If you've tried to work with your employer to reach an agreement about what a reasonable accommodation looks like and failed -- or you've been discriminated against at work for having a mental illness -- it may be time to explore other methods of asserting your rights. Our office can help you understand your options. Please explore our site further or contact us directly for assistance.

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