Let me start off by saying that if you are suicidal, help is available to you right now. Please call and/or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. You are not alone. Given the last few years, the entire United States is facing a serious mental health crisis. This crisis goes far beyond simple burnout. Mental health is a real condition and should be taken seriously.
According to data from the CDC, There was an increase in suicide rates of 33 percent from 1999 to 2019, with a small decline during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. However, suicide attempt rates are on the rise again. In the United States, suicide is now the tenth leading cause of death, with someone committing suicide every 11 minutes.
Suicide is defined as death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die, while suicide attempt is defined as harming oneself with any intent to end one’s life, but not dying as a result of such actions. Being suicidal or having suicidal ideations may be the consequence of treatable mental disorders that include post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), major depression, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance use disorders, and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.
One of the largest obstacles to people getting treatment for conditions leading to suicide is the fear of losing a job, not being able to take off of work for treatment, how the boss or manager might treat you moving forward, and that confidential and private medical information will be shared with coworkers. Employment laws are in place to protect employees from all of these issues.
(If you are looking for employment law rights related to a suicide attempt, see Can My Boss Fire Me If I Attempted Suicide?)
Can I be fired for having anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental disorders?
Best Disability Discrimination Attorneys Answers: The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) as well as various state law, including Ohio Revised Code § 4112.01, et al., make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against qualified employees or applicants who have a physical or mental impairment that limits a major life activity, have a record of such disability, or are “regarded as” having a physical or mental impairment by the employer if that employee or applicant can perform the central function of the job with or without accommodation. Mental impairments, which are also called mental illnesses or mental health disorders, covers a broad spectrum of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. See Peters v. Baldwin Union Free Sch. Dist., 320 F.3d 162, 168 (2d Cir. 2003) (“A mental illness that impels one to suicide can be viewed as a paradigmatic instance of inability to care for oneself” and is, therefore, a “protected disability.”); Chandler v. Specialty Tires of Am., Inc., 134 F. App’x 921, 926 (6th Cir. 2005) (a reasonable jury could find that the employer perceived employee who had attempted suicide as suffering from an impairment that limited one or more major life functions).
This means that your employer cannot take an adverse employment action against you because you have or regarded as being disabled by a mental health condition. (Best Law Read: What Is An Adverse Employment Action?). Adverse actions include refusing to hire, refusing to promote, demotion, wage reduction, and wrongful termination. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for identifying a disability nor asking for an accommodation. (Best Law Reads: How Do I Prove Illegal Retaliation By My Job Under Title VII?; Can My Boss Fire Me Because of My Medical Condition? I Need The Best Disability Employment Discrimination Attorney In Ohio!; Is It Wrongful Termination To Fire Disabled Workers?).
Therefore, you should not fear losing your job or any other adverse employment action by telling your employer that you are having thoughts of suicide and need medical care.
What does my job have to do if I’ve asked for help because I’m suicidal?
Best ADA Work Accommodation Attorneys Answers: At the very least, once you have identified a disability and requested an accommodation, an employer must engage in what the law calls the interactive process. (Best Law Read: What Is The Interactive Process For Disabled Employees?) Basically, the interactive process means that an employer cannot reject an accommodation request without any discussion, but must work with the employee to try to come up with a solution that works for the company and the employee. In Snapp v. United Transportation Union, 889 F.3d 1088, 1095 (9th Cir. 2018), United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held: that “notifying an employer of a need for an accommodation triggers a duty to engage in an ‘interactive process’ through which the employer and employee can come to understand the employee’s abilities and limitations, the employer’s needs for various positions, and a possible middle-ground for accommodating the employee.”
Determining what a reasonable accommodation is will depend on the specific facts of each situation and will be dependent on the needs of the employee as well as the size and financial ability of the employer. This is a topic that has been regularly covered by our employment law attorneys. (Best Law Reads: What should employees know about reasonable accommodations?; My Employer Will Not Provide Me With A Reasonable Accommodation For My Disability. I Need The Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer In Ohio!; How Do I Discuss A Reasonable Accommodation With My Employer? I Need The Top Disability Discrimination Attorney In Ohio!)
Can I get protected time off work to get mental health treatment under the FMLA?
Best FMLA Lawyer Answers: There are primarily two ways to get off of work to treat mental health issues. Employees who qualify under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) should consider this option first. (Best Law Reads: Top FMLA Lawyer: Am I Eligible For Medical Leave From Work?; and Are All Employees Eligible For FMLA? – Call The Right Attorney). The FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work to address the employee’s own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a family member if the employer employs at least 50 people within a 75-mile radius and the employee has worked for that employer for at least 12 months immediately before the leave and worked at least 1250 hours during that preceding year. Much like the ADA, the FMLA makes it illegal to retaliate against an employee for requesting FMLA leave. (Best Law Reads: Can My FMLA Leave Count Against Me At Work?; FMLA Retaliation Tips). It is also unlawful for employers to interfere or block FMLA leave. (Best Law Read: What Is FMLA Interference?).
Under the FMLA, “serious health condition” is defined as “an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves (A) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility or (B) continuing treatment by a health care provider.” 29 U.S.C. § 2611(11) (Emphasis added). (Best Law Read: Can I Take Medical Leave From My Job Because Of My Anxiety?). In Valdivia v. Twp. High Sch. Dist. 214, 942 F.3d 395, 399 (7th Cir. 2019), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that “expert medical testimony was not required to prove, on a day-by-day basis, that an employee was incapacitated every day for which he requested FMLA leave. Instead, for a chronic condition such as depression, lay testimony, supplemented by medical records, was sufficient. … Here, Valdivia’s testimony indicated that she had exhibited symptoms for weeks, including at least some time when she was working at Wheeling, and her medical records supported the fact that her condition did not arise for the first time on the day she saw the doctor.” As such, employees can request leave before seeking diagnosis and treatment from a doctor.
Moreover, under the FMLA, an employee can use all or large chunks of the 12 week leave period for intensive or inpatient treatment or can opt to use the leave intermittently for ongoing treatments – say one day off per week to seek counseling or other treatment.
Can I get protected time off work to get mental health treatment under the ADA?
Best Medical Leave Lawyer Answers: Employees who do not qualify under the FMLA, can request a reasonable accommodation of time off under the ADA. “Time off, whether paid or unpaid, can be a reasonable accommodation, but an employer is not required to provide a disabled employee with indefinite leave.” Moss v. Harris Cty. Constable Precinct One, 851 F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir. 2017). (Best Law Reads: My Job Doesn’t Have FMLA, Can I Get Medical Leave?; Can My Employer Deny My Request For Disability-Related Leave? I Need The Best Disability Discrimination Attorneys In Ohio!). Furthermore, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) published a guideline letter in 2016 that provides in pertinent part:
A reasonable accommodation … can include making modifications to existing leave policies and providing leave when needed for a disability, even where an employer does not offer leave to other employees. As with any other accommodation, the goal of providing leave as an accommodation is to afford employees with disabilities equal employment opportunities. … some employers may not know that they may have to modify policies that limit the amount of leave employees can take when an employee needs additional leave as a reasonable accommodation. … Leave as a reasonable accommodation is consistent with this purpose when it enables an employee to return to work following the period of leave. … [R]equests for leave related to disability can often fall under existing employer policies. In those cases, the employer’s obligation is to provide persons with disabilities access to those policies on equal terms as similarly situated individuals. That is not the end of an employer’s obligation under the ADA though. An employer must consider providing unpaid leave to an employee with a disability as a reasonable accommodation if the employee requires it, and so long as it does not create an undue hardship for the employer. (See below for a discussion of undue hardship.) That is the case even when: [a] the employer does not offer leave as an employee benefit; [b] the employee is not eligible for leave under the employer’s policy; or [c] the employee has exhausted the leave the employer provides as a benefit (including leave exhausted under a workers’ compensation program, or the FMLA or similar state or local laws).
Can my job tell my coworkers why I am taking medical leave?
Best Employment Law Attorneys Answers: Employers are not permitted to share any employee medical information, including specific medical information related to why an employee is taking a leave of absence under the FMLA or receiving an accommodation under the ADA. The ADA and relating case law defines medical information to be diagnoses, treatments, and all requested and given disability work accommodations. This means all medical information, including information regarding mental impairments and disorders must be kept strictly secret. Indeed, under the ADA employers must store medical information apart from regular personnel files as well as limit access based on necessity. This means that if you request a leave from Human Resources (“HR”) to seek treatment relating to suicidal ideations, the HR representative cannot share that with your boss, supervisor, or coworkers. (Best Law Read: Can My Employer Share My Medical Information?).
What should I do if I was fired because I reported that I’m suicidal or requesting medical time off?
Best Wrongful Termination Lawyer Answers: Because you likely have a claim, you should hire the best employment discrimination lawyers and top wrongful termination attorneys to help you out. While you are taking care of yourself, a skilled and experienced employment law firm can take best take care of your legal rights. Having to live with anxiety, depression, PTSD and other mental and emotional disorders and conditions is tough enough without worrying about losing your job. If you are suicidal, disabled or your employer considers to be disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. The best option is not to wait. Call our lawyers in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati, Youngstown and Detroit to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
This employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “can I get time off from work because I was hospitalized with suicidal ideations?”, “What should I do if I was fired after committing myself for psychiatric care?”, “What can I do if my boss shared my private medical information with my coworkers” or “can my just reject my request for medical leave because it doesn’t believe I’m suicidal”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney, Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.