Understanding Mental Illness in the Workplace

Many Americans suffer from mental illness – and this includes many of the employees at your company. In fact, nearly 43.8 million Americans deal with mental illness each year. Because mental illness is so prevalent, it’s imperative that all employers understand the rights of workers dealing with mental health issues.

ADA Protections

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employees struggling with mental illness are granted rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These rights include the following:

  • Workers cannot be harassed or discriminated against due to mental health issues.
  • Workers cannot be fired due to mental health issues.
  • Reasonable accommodations must be made.

In many cases, employees can choose to keep their mental illness private. However, when an issue is known and when it affects work, an employer may have the right to require an independent medical exam to determine whether an employee is mentally capable of returning to work.

Accommodations for Employees

Workers with mental illness may qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for qualified employees.

In some cases, reasonable accommodations under the ADA may include a flexible work schedule or the ability to telecommute. It may even include an extended leave of absence.

Employers need to be aware of and respect the rights of their employees dealing with mental illness. In fact, employers should not be dismissive of an employee’s mental health needs. Firing an employee over a schedule request related to mental illness may result in a very expensive lawsuit.

Workers’ Compensation Claims for Mental Illness

In some cases, workers may file a workers’ compensation claim for work-related mental health issues. For example, if an incident at work leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, this could result in a valid claim. Depression and anxiety caused by work could also lead to claims. Even severe stress may result in a claim.

When determining whether a mental illness is covered, it’s important to review state law.

Mental Health Parity

Under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, group health plans and health insurers cannot provide mental health or substance use disorder benefits that are more restrictive than the medical or surgical benefits provided.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,this means that copayments, deductibles and out-of-pocket limits for mental health care cannot be higher, the number of covered visits cannot be more limited and coverage for out-of-network providers cannot be worse. Additionally, the use of care management tools and the criteria for medical necessity determination must be equal.

The law applies to large employer-funded plans as well as smaller employer-funded plans unless they were grandfathered in. Some employers can receive exemptions.

Need assistance navigating mental health issues at your workplace? Contact Roper Insurance today at 303-721-1145.