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Getting workplace accommodations for mental illness

Employees need to talk with the human resource department to make their need for an adjustment known and to understand what accommodations are available.

Many residents across California and the rest of the country suffer from some type of mental illness. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 18 percent of the country's population deal with some type of mental illness each year. A person's mental health can greatly affect his or her ability to work. In fact, mental illness is said to cost employers as much as $100 billion a year when left untreated because of missed days at work and other indirect costs. Treatment can reduce an employee's missed work days, but getting accommodations at work for the treatments is not always straightforward.

Make the need known

Employees need to work with the human resource department to get a workplace accommodation for mental illness. Many employers require a written request and documentation to prove the need. Doctors can write letters stating a person's need for accommodation due to mental illness. Each employer may need different amounts of information within the letter.

Employees should keep records of the conversations they have with their employer to ensure the accommodations are handled in the best way possible. Saving emails, taking notes and filing documentation can help speed the process along because there will be a clear trail of a person's need for an adjustment to a job or work environment based on mental health.

Understand the accommodation options

Workers also need to know what type of adjustments are available to them, so they can better figure out what change will be best for their work productivity. There are a variety of adjustments employers may be able to make. For instance, the employers may offer accommodations, such as the following:

  • Allowing part- or fulltime telecommuting to reduce anxiety linked to workplace environments or commuting.
  • Scheduling regular check-ins with direct supervisors to help employees manage problems before they become too large.
  • Switching office location to eliminate high traffic and other distractions.
  • Offering flexible break times and work schedules to make it easier for employees to make it to healthcare appointments.
  • Creating a supportive environment to reduce the stigma tied to mental health issues.
  • Giving employees the freedom to perform regular duties at various times of the day to make sure they can work when they are most productive.

Talking with the human resources department can help employees better understand what type of accommodations are available to them. Once they know what is offered by their employer, the workers can figure out which adjustment would be best for their situation.

The steps needed to request workplace adjustments in California may vary based on employer. It can be beneficial to work with an attorney who is familiar with employment law to make sure employers make adequate accommodations.

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