Mental Illness Discrimination in The Workplace in Ohio

May 06, 2020
By Peter Friedmann

Employment Protections Exist for Ohio Workers With Mental Health Conditions

In guidelines issued in 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission affirmed that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you simply because you have a mental health condition. This includes firing you, rejecting you for a job or promotion, or forcing you to take leave.

Protections against mental illness discrimination in the workplace in Ohio are primarily guaranteed by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. An earlier law, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, also applies specifically to disability discrimination by employers such as schools and nonprofits that receive funds from the U.S. government.

The ADA makes it illegal for any private company with more than 15 employees and government agencies of any size to deny job opportunities to people with diagnosed mental health conditions. Job protections under the ADA also extend to people with suspected mental illness and to individuals who care for those with mental or intellectual disabilities. The ADA bans direct and indirect mental health discrimination in the workplace.

What the ADA Specifically Prohibits

ADA protections apply during all phases of recruiting, interviewing, hiring and employment. Regardless of their diagnosed or presumed mental health, a person who has the education, skills, and experience to do a job must have equal access to applying, obtaining an interview, getting hired, and qualifying for benefits, training, raises, and promotions.

The ADA makes it illegal for employers to ask about mental health issues on applications or during job interviews. Additionally, managers and supervisors cannot do the following things:

  • Treat an employee as though they suffer from mental illness;
  • Allow coworkers to bully or mistreat an employee because of an acknowledged or suspected mental health issue;
  • Force an employee to use leave or take an unpaid leave of absence because they suspect the employee has a mental health issue.

The Rights Employees Have Under the ADA

The ADA gives an employee the right to request an accommodation if they can

  • Document the existence of a mental health issue that significantly affects how they perform a work-related task, and
  • Show that receiving the accommodation will allow them to meet performance expectations without substantially disrupting the business or requiring their employer to spend a lot of money. This is often referred to as causing the employer an “undue burden.”

An accommodation can be requested while applying and interviewing for a job, as well.

Employers must consider requests for accommodations in good faith and engage an employee in a discussion of how necessary the accommodation is and whether it can be made in a reasonable way at a sustainable cost.  This is called the “interactive process.”  The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides this list of accommodations that should generally be granted:

  • Flexible work schedules or start times
  • Reduced distractions or noise in the work area
  • Working from home or telecommuting
  • Written directions and task lists
  • Regular written or verbal feedback
  • Flexible break schedule
  • Private, quiet space to rest during a break
  • Use of a job coach

Workers also have the right to file complaints about mental illness discrimination and to use continuous or intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act leave to deal with mental health issues. Importantly, employers cannot retaliate against workers for requesting an accommodation, reporting discrimination, or asking for and using FMLA leave.

If you have experienced mental illness discrimination in the workplace in Ohio, consider reaching out to an ADA lawyer at The Friedmann Firm. Based in Columbus, we advise and represent workers in employment law cases all across Ohio. You can schedule a free, confidential consultation online or call us at 614.610.9755 to set up an appointment.