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Mental Health Discrimination

Disability Rights

This article provides information about succeeding at work and protection against discrimination. This article was provided by the National Alliance on Mental illness.

Succeeding at work

At work you have to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages of being open about a mental health condition. Consider the potential negative impact on things like stigma from coworkers against your need for special accommodations, which are considered part of your civil rights. Stigma and stereotypes can also lead to discrimination. There are laws in place that protect you from discrimination and unfair practices on the job.

Protection against discrimination

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees with disabilities. This law applies to private employers with more than 15 employees and state and local government employers. To qualify for protections under the ADA, the law states that you must be able to show:
    • That you have a disability that substantially impairs one or more major life activities. This means that you must be able to show that you have a condition that, if left untreated, interferes with daily or work activities such as concentrating, communicating or regulating emotions.
    • That you are able to perform the essential functions of your job with or without reasonable accommodations. In other words, you must be able to show that you can complete the important tasks or core duties of any job that you apply for.
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab Act) is a federal law, similar to the ADA, that applies to any agency or group that receives federal funding, including public schools, universities and even some private schools. This law protects federal government workers and employees at any of these agencies from disability discrimination.

Requesting an extended leave of absence

Sometimes it's necessary to take off multiple weeks in order to cope with a psychiatric crisis. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the event of an illness or to help care for a family member who is sick. The FMLA permits you to take a leave of absence while preserving your job placement and benefits. To qualify for FMLA, you must work a minimum of 12 months for the same employer. The FMLA only applies to employers with more than 50 employees. To learn more about the FMLA, contact the Department of Labor

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