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Total Articles: 13

Dear Littler: How Should We Approach an Employee Showing Signs of Cognitive Decline?

Dear Littler: We have an employee who is exhibiting signs of dementia or some other sort of cognitive impairment. He has fallen asleep at work a few times recently and seems confused by tasks that did not pose any problem for him in the past. His performance was solid for years but started declining in the past several months, along with his attention to detail. How do we handle our concerns about his well-being and performance? Should we ask him what’s going on with his health?

Employer Guidance on Mental Health Disorders

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, one in five US adults experiences mental illness in a given year. In a recent article authored by PL Matters contributor Dove A.E. Burns, the “prevalence of these disorders has a significant impact upon the workplace and upon employers and their accommodation policies and procedures.” The New York Law Journal article evaluates the EEOC’s publication titled “Depression, PTSD & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights.” The article also considers what the EEOC’s guidance means for employers navigating the ADA landscape.

EEOC Releases New “Resource Document” On Mental Health Conditions under the ADA

On December 12, 2016, the EEOC issued a new Q&A style document entitled “Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights.”

EEOC Issues Guidance on Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace

On December 12, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a resource document titled, “Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights,” which summarizes the rights of individuals with mental health conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The resource document, drafted in a basic Q&A format, addresses workers' rights to protection against discrimination and harassment because of mental health conditions, privacy regarding mental health information, and reasonable accommodation in the performance of job functions.

EEOC Issues Publication Informing Job Applicants and Employees with Mental Health Conditions of their Employment Rights

Executive Summary: On December 12, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a user-friendly resource document aimed at informing applicants and employees with mental health conditions about their workplace rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The publication also addresses circumstances regarding workplace privacy rights, such as confidentiality of medical information, and the process for requesting and documenting the need for a reasonable accommodation relating to a mental health condition.

EEOC Issues Guidance on the Rights of Employees with Mental Health Conditions Under the ADA

In continuation of its series of “resource” documents which provide guidance to individuals with medical conditions or work restrictions, on December 12, 2016, the EEOC issued a “resource” document titled “Depression, PTSD, and Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights” which is intended to provide guidance on workplace rights for individuals with mental health conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

Resource Update: Mental Health Issues in the Workplace – A Global Perspective

The intentional crash of Germanwings flight 9525 by an apparently mentally ill pilot into the French Alps this March shocked and distressed not just the millions of people who fly each day, but also the millions of responsible employers who strive to provide safe workplaces for their employees. In "Mental Health Issues in the Workplace – A Global Perspective," FordHarrison partner Sarah Pierce Wimberly discusses the difficulties involved in monitoring employees' mental health while balancing the compelling, but competing, duties to provide a safe workplace and protect employee confidentiality. For multinational employers, these difficulties are compounded by differing laws in the jurisdictions in which they do business. The article compares the obligations imposed by U.S. law to those imposed by laws in the U.K. and Germany, incorporating insight from Ius Laboris member firms in those countries. The article was published by Corporate Counsel magazine and is available on the In Depth Analysis page of the FordHarrison website.

Sugar Bear Unleashed: Employee with Emotional Disabilities May Be Entitled to Bring Comfort Animal to Work

A federal district court in Hawaii has ruled that the branch manager of a rental car company may have been discriminated against on the basis of his depression and adjustment disorder disabilities when he was terminated for an angry outburst directed at a subordinate after having been warned about similar misconduct on past occasions. Assaturian v. Hertz Corp. The final incident occurred about four months after the manager was told by his employer that he could no longer bring “Sugar Bear,” a Shih Tzu, to work with him unless he provided medical documentation establishing his need to do so. According to the manager, "Sugar Bear" was a licensed service animal that helped him control his emotions and reduce his stress. The manager had not complied with his employer's request for documentation by the time of the incident that led to his termination, but claimed during discovery in the lawsuit that he had not had sufficient opportunity to do so. According to the managers' co-workers, the dog was not leashed and regularly urinated on the floor.

New Mental-Health Manual Likely to Impact HR

In psychiatry, unlike other branches of medicine, there is no laboratory test that can confirm the existence of a particular mental disorder. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals rely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as "DSM-5" to diagnose patients. The American Psychiatric Association has just released a new fifth edition of the manual and human resources executives should take note. It contains new diagnostic categories not listed in its predecessor and loosens the criteria for some diagnoses which will likely result in more people qualifying for these diagnoses. DSM-5 is likely to impact HR by expanding the number of employees who will qualify as disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act and be entitled to reasonable accommodation.

Could the American Psychiatric Association Cause Employers Headaches? The Potential Impact of the DSM-5

Since it was first published in 1952, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) has served as the primary reference on mental health disorders for medical practitioners, government agencies such as the Social Security and Veterans Administrations, and state and federal courts. The fourth edition, known as the DSM-IV, was published in 1994, with only minor “text revisions” in 2000. In May 2013, APA plans to publish a fifth edition. As proposed, the DSM-5 (the APA plans to scrap the use of Roman numerals) would significantly expand a number of existing psychological disorders and add several new ones. Indeed, critics predict that the DSM-5 will lead to the over-diagnosis of mental disorders. This has significant implications for employers.

Seventh Circuit Allows Bridge Worker with Fear of Heights to Pursue Disability Discrimination Claim

As previously reported, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act and the EEOC’s recently published final regulations significantly expand the definition of disability and the potential number of employees who may pursue claims of discrimination, retaliation or failure to accommodate under the ADA. Now more than ever, employers must pay attention to their obligations under the ADA. The Seventh Circuit recently published a decision in Miller v. Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), which illustrates the importance of maintaining consistent and effective procedures for responding to accommodation requests.

Fear of potential violence by an impaired employee can be a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for termination.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and parallel state statutes, an employer cannot take an adverse action against an employee because of that person’s disability or perceived disability. However, an employer is justified in taking such action if the action is based upon a legitimate business reason, and if that reason is not simply a pretext for discrimination. A Tennessee district court has held that firing an employee because of fear of potential violence by that individual is a “legitimate non-discriminatory reason” for an employee’s termination, in spite of the fact that the employee had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

9th Circuit Gives Violent Behavior ADA Protection.

When do ADA protections for the mentally disabled trump the rights of other employees to a safe workplace? The 9th Circuit provides some guidance.
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