Mental Illness Discrimination in the Workplace

Jun 21, 2021
By Peter Friedmann

There are many ways in which mental illness discrimination occurs in the workplace, including direct and indirect mental illness discrimination. Employees should be aware of the rights and protections that the law provides.

It is important to note that there are protections against mental illness discrimination for workers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal civil rights law established in 1990, makes it illegal for a private company with 15 or more employees to deny job opportunities to individuals who have diagnosed with mental health conditions.

The ADA specifically prohibits employers from discriminating across all employment practices including:

  • Hiring
  • Advancement
  • Training
  • Firing or letting go

What Rights Do You Have If You’re Facing Mental Illness Discrimination in the Workplace?

If you believe you are facing mental illness discrimination in the workplace, understanding specific ADA protections is important.

The ADA specifies what employers may or may not ask about in the employment setting. Employers cannot ask about mental health issues on job applications or during job interviews.

Under the ADA, employees also have the right to request accommodations for their mental illnesses. Employers are required to grant reasonable accommodation requests as long as the accommodation would not create an undue burden for the employer. Requesting accommodation can also be done during the job application and interview process.

Lastly, the ADA also firmly bans direct and indirect mental health discrimination in the workplace. Speaking with a Cleveland ADA attorney can also be a great next step to identifying mental illness discrimination.

What Direct and Indirect Discrimination in Mental Health Can Look Like

Direct and indirect discrimination in mental health can appear in the workplace in different ways, whether you are an employee or currently going through the interview and hiring process. So briefly, here are some of the differences between direct and indirect discrimination in mental health.

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination is when an employee or potential employee with a mental illness is treated less favorably than others because of their mental illness.

This kind of discrimination can be both intentional and unintentional. An example of direct discrimination might be if a supervisor refuses to give an employee a promotion simply because that employee has a mental illness.

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination is different from direct evidence of discrimination because it requires a person to draw an inference that discrimination occurred rather than knowing it occurred. Oftentimes, it may even be unintentional.

Indirect discrimination may appear in a job listing, such as innocuously listing that a company is only looking for people who can lift up to 50 lbs even though heavy lifting is not a part of the job requirement, or if there is a rule, practice, or policy that does not apply to all employees the same way or puts certain individuals with mental health conditions at a disadvantage.

If you have experienced direct or indirect mental health discrimination in your workplace, consider reaching out to a Cleveland employment attorney at The Friedmann Firm. A Cleveland ADA attorney will be able to advise and represent employees in cases across the state of Ohio. Based in Columbus, we have offices in Cincinnati and Cleveland. You can reach out for a free, confidential consultation with a Cleveland ADA attorney online or you can call us at 614-610-9755.