While most of us know about workplace accommodations for physical health issues, such as a specific seating arrangement, it can be harder to understand accommodations for a mental health condition. As mental health concerns are usually less visible than physical health conditions, it can be hard to know what possibilities are open to you. Additionally, the stigma surrounding mental health conditions means that many people are afraid to reach out for assistance.
The fear of retaliation, judgment or discrimination is strong. Yet, one in five Americans lives with a mental illness. For one in 25 Americans, that illness is serious. You are not alone if accommodation would allow you to succeed in your workplace.
Protections for mental health conditions
Like other disabilities covered in the Americans with Disabilities Act, your employer cannot terminate you, refuse to consider you for a promotion or otherwise retaliate against you because of a mental health condition. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission mentions the following qualifying mental health conditions:
- Anxiety Disorders (e.g. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
If you fear that asking for accommodations for any of these conditions will cause your employer to wrongfully penalize you, consult legal counsel to ensure that you know all your options under Texas and federal law.
Even with ADA protections, Texas is still an at-will employment state. Though an employer cannot fire you specifically because of your mental health condition, the employer still has the right to terminate an employee who is not performing necessary job duties. That is why it is so important to advocate for yourself and ask for reasonable accommodations if those job duties are significantly more difficult for you due to a mental health concern.
Common accommodations for mental health concerns include:
- Asking for your supervisor to give directions in writing
- Negotiating permission to work from home
- Altering work schedules to accommodate treatment appointments
- Requesting quiet office space for concentration
Do not let the fear of stigma keep you from asking for what you need in your workplace.