The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has put out a batch of semiformal advice that could affect the efforts of some disability insurance claimants to return to work.
In the guidance, EEOC officials give mental health care providers advice about their role in clients’ efforts to ask employers to make reasonable accommodations at work.
The guidance could affect psychologists, social workers or others who are trying to help workers who are off the job primarily because of mental health problems such as depression or manic depression.
The guidance also could affect providers who are helping workers who are off the job primarily because of physical disabilities but who also are suffering from problems such as depression.
The EEOC is involved because it plays a role in helping to administer the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Mental health care providers involved in helping patients to return to work have to think about safety, privacy, and the possibility of discrimination as well as the ADA provisions that require employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, officials say in the guidance.
The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
Mental health conditions on the government’s list of disabilities include major depressive disorder, biploar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.
The ADA does not protect workers who are still using illegal drugs, or who would be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs on the job, and the ADA is not an excuse for a worker to fail to meet production standards or necessary rules of conduct, officials say.
A mental health provider should ask for a reasonable accommodation for a client only if the client has asked the provider to do so and signed a release, officials say.
At one point, officials consider the question, “Could an employer discriminate against my client because of the information I provide?”
“The ADA prohibits employers from harassing your client because of a mental health condition, and from terminating or taking other adverse actions against your client because of a mental health condition,” officials say. “However, employers sometimes discriminate illegally. You therefore may wish to discuss with your client the risks associated with disclosing the condition (such as potential illegal discrimination), and with not disclosing it (such as not having a reasonable accommodation that may be necessary to do the job).”