Slepian Smith, PLLC

Mental disabilities in the workplace

Recently, Forbes published an article on whether to tell an employer about a mental disability and, if disclosure is chosen, how to go about having the conversation.

The article, citing data from the American Health Association, pointed out that mental illness is extremely common in the workplace, with about three out of every four U.S. workers being affected by mental illness of some kind.

Because of the stigma associated with mental health conditions, however, many people are reluctant to disclose their conditions in the workplace. Unfortunately, data suggests that people do have a reason to be hesitant.

A 2014 study shows that many people who have disclosed mental health conditions in the workplace have suffered negative consequences, such as being treated differently, losing out on opportunities or even being fired.

The article suggested weighing the potential benefits and drawbacks of disclosing a mental health condition to an employer on a case-by-case basis.

In some cases, disclosure can be the best option because it can allow a worker to get the accommodations needed to perform his or her job, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course, revealing the condition comes with the threat of a negative reaction.

When a disability makes work impossible

If a mental condition worsens or persists over a long time, draining mental resources, working full time may no longer be possible, whether a worker has an accommodation or not. People in this situation may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits to help supplement their income while they are out of work due to their condition.

To qualify for disability benefits, the condition must meet the Social Security Administration's definition of a disability, and it must significantly affect the applicant's ability to do basic work for at least 12 months.

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