Is it illegal to discriminate against a worker with mental health concerns?

In 2018, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) National Network (ADATA) compiled data that showed that 44 million American adults, or 18.5% of the U.S. population, reported having a mental health condition.  The researchers also found that 18% of U.S. working adults suffered from similar diagnoses. Most of us are aware that ADA provides individuals with specific physical impairments with certain protections against discrimination. Did you know that ADA protects individuals with mental health conditions though as well?

Federal lawmakers clearly defined what constitutes a disability when drafting the ADA. It’s any mental or physical impairment that significantly limits a person’s ability to engage in life’s activities.

Lawmakers passed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. It prohibits employers from discriminating against any workers with psychiatric disabilities. It also makes it illegal for an employer to fail to hire, deny training opportunities or demote someone with a suspected or known psychiatric disability. It prohibits employers from discriminating against any worker with a record of mental illness as well.

The ADA entitles employees to a right to privacy. Workers don’t have any obligation to disclose any mental or behavioral health concerns to their employers.

Federal law prohibits employers from rescinding a job offer simply because a pre-employment physical reveals that a prospective employee has a psychiatric disability. Employers can do so if a worker’s condition puts others’ safety in danger. If they can’t reasonably accommodate the employee’s condition or it prevents the prospective employee from carrying out their job roles, then they may be able to rescind the offer as well.

Existing employees may only need to disclose their diagnosis to their employer if they require them to provide special accommodations. Federal law prohibits a company’s leadership from disseminating that disability information to any of the worker’s colleagues, though.

Most individuals apply for jobs or go to work, expecting to be treated equally to their colleagues. That’s not the type of treatment that some individuals with specific sexual orientations, disabilities, races, genders or religions experience, though. Disparate treatment is illegal under both Kentucky and federal law. An attorney can advise you of your right to recover compensation if your Louisville employer treated you differently from everyone else.