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Unfortunately, given the state of the world, more and more employees are facing a mental health crisis. These mental health issues are only further compounded based on fears of discrimination at work or what would happen if you needed time off for treatment.

What laws protect employees with mental health conditions?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protects employees from discrimination based on actual or perceived disabilities and further requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with a disability. The ADA provides that a worker will have a psychiatric disability if that employee (a) has a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities; (b) has a record of such impairment; or (c) is regarded as having such an impairment by the employer. Such mental impairments may include major depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and personality disorders as well as other psychological disorders and mental illnesses.

These same conditions will be protected for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) if the employee otherwise qualifies under the FMLA.

Can I get time off for treatment for a mental health issue?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: Probably. Employees who qualify under the FMLA get 12 weeks, either all at once or intermittently, for treatment or care of a personal or family medical issue, which includes for mental health issues. Under the ADA, employees who do not qualify for leave under the FMLA or need more than the 12 weeks provided by the FMLA can request time off as a reasonable accommodation. (Best Law Read: Is Time Off A Reasonable ADA Accommodation?; My Job Doesn’t Have FMLA, Can I Get Medical Leave?; What should employees know about reasonable accommodations?).

Can I Be fired because I have a mental health condition?

Best Wrongful Termination Lawyer Answer: No. The ADA makes in illegal for the company you work for to take any adverse employment action against you (including firing you) or otherwise discriminate against you (including refusing to promote you) because of a mental health condition. (Best Law Read: What Is An Adverse Employment Action?). However, your employer can end your employment if you cannot perform central functions of your job with or without a reasonable disability accommodation. Before ending your employment based on the inability to perform the job, the employer must engage in what is called the interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation would allow you to do the central functions of the job. (Best Law Read: What Is The Interactive Process For Disabled Employees?).

Can my manager fire me just because he thinks my disability creates a safety risk?

Best Wrongfully Fired Answer: An employer can terminate your employment if you actually pose a “direct threat” to the safety or significant risk of substantial harm to your coworkers, customer or you. But the risk of danger must be real and not based on myths or stereotypes about mental health issues. The ADA was passed to protect disabled individuals from discrimination “based on prejudice, stereotypes, or unfounded fear.” Sch. Bd. of Nassau County v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273, 287, 107 S.Ct. 1123, 94 L.Ed.2d 307 (1987). Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court has held that “an individualized assessment of the [employee’s] present ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job based on medical or other objective evidence” is required. Albertson’s, Inc. v. Kirkingburg, 527 U.S. 555, 569, 119 S.Ct. 2162, 144 L.Ed.2d 518 (1999) (citing 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(r) and Bragdon v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624, 649, 118 S.Ct. 2196, 141 L.Ed.2d 540 (1998)). To determine whether an employee poses a direct threat, courts will consider factors including: “(1) the duration of the risk; (2) the nature and severity of the potential harm; (3) the likelihood that potential harm will occur; and (4) the imminence of potential harm.” Emerson v. N. States Power Co., 256 F.3d 506, 513–14 (7th Cir.2001) (citing Borgialli v. Thunder Basin Coal Co., 235 F.3d 1284, 1291 (10th Cir.2000)); see also Lovejoy-Wilson v. NOCO Motor Fuel, Inc., 263 F.3d 208, 220 (2d Cir. 2001). (Best Employment Lawyer Answer: Can I Be Fired For Swearing At Work?; Law: Does The ADA Protect Emotional Outbursts?). As such, you manager or supervisor cannot just assume that workers with mental health conditions create a direct safety threat. Firing an employee without evidence of an actual threat would result in a wrongful termination.

Can my manager tell my coworkers about my mental health issues?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: No. One of the biggest obstacles to the treatment of mental health issues is people worrying about the stigma of what other people will think. This is particularly true in the workplace where workers are worried about the condition be shared around the watercooler. It is a violation of the ADA to share an employee’s medical information. Indeed, the ADA requires extra steps to be taken to make sure that medical information, including about mental health issues, is kept securely separate from the employee’s personnel file and under lock and key. (Best Law Read: Can My Employer Share My Medical Information?; Can My Boss Force Me To Take A Medical Exam?)

What is an example of discrimination against an employee with mental health issues?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: Recently, TrueBlue, Inc. and its subsidiary, PeopleReady, Inc., which are labor sourcing companies, agreed to pay $125,000 to settle the claims arising out their firing an employee because of her psychiatric disability. According to the lawsuit, the employee blocked from returning to work despite being medically cleared after her hospitalization for her disability. The lawsuit further alleged that the companies terminated the employee because she required future intermittent leave for outpatient medical appointments. Such conduct is a clear violation of the ADA and amounts to wrongful termination of her employment. Once the employee was medically cleared, the employer had very limited options but to return the employee to work. Instead, the employer acted based on misconceptions and assumptions resulting in discriminatory conduct in violation of the ADA.

What should I do if I was fired because of my mental health issues?

Best Ohio Lawyer Answer: Call our attorneys to help you. Getting help for mental health is difficult enough without having deal with an unreasonable boss, manager, or supervisor. If you are disabled because of major depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and personality disorders as well as any other psychological disorders and mental illnesses and facing discrimination or harassment on you job; or you have beenfired, 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, “how do I get a work accommodation to tre?”, “am I disabled under the ADA?”, “what should I do if…” or “can my boss fired me for …”, 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.

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