Perhaps the most misunderstood and unfairly judged disabilities are those others cannot see, particularly those that fall under the heading of mental impairment. Nevertheless, these conditions can be as painful and frustrating as physical disabilities, and they can complicate your ability to do the work for which you are well qualified.
If you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who suffer from a diagnosed depressive disorder, you may already know the unfair stigma you are under. You may find it difficult to talk about your condition with others because you dread the uncomfortable reactions or even losing friendships because people don’t understand. However, when it comes to your job, you have the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Seeking accommodations for your disabling condition
Even if your depression is under control with medication or other therapies, you may still find certain situations in the workplace to be difficult. While your employer may not inquire about your physical or mental health, you may have to disclose your condition if you want to ask for reasonable accommodations so you can cope with those difficult situations. Some examples of accommodations that may help include the following:
- A more flexible work schedule
- A work area that is away from the bustle or traffic in the office
- Removal of conditions that may cause you distraction
- The option to telecommute full or part time
- Time off so you can attend therapy sessions or support meetings
- Extended medical leave if you require hospitalization
You and your employer may have to discuss some of the elements of the job that are especially difficult for you and negotiate some options to allow you to succeed at your tasks. Accommodations may not be overly burdensome or expensive for your employer, and they should not be unfair to other employees. Aside from this, the ADA requires your employer to find a way to accommodate you.
Beware the aftermath
The ADA does not cover emotional upset due to a stressful or traumatic event in your life, a relationship breakup or substance abuse. It is important that you understand whether your condition qualifies as a disability before you seek accommodations.
Once you have disclosed your depression or other mental health issue to your employer, he or she may not use that disclosure as a reason for treating you unfairly. For example, your depression should not prevent you from receiving promotions, raises and other opportunities you deserve, and your boss may not terminate you simply because you have a mental illness.