In the U.S., about 18 percent of individuals report a mental illness in any given month, making psychiatric disability one of the top reported. Workers with mental illness, or a history of mental illness, are provided workplace rights and legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against a worker for psychiatric disability or a history of mental illness. While it is the choice of an applicant or employee to disclose such illness, it is required by the ADA that reasonable accommodations be made to allow a person to work, unless it causes the employer an undue hardship. Also, an employer cannot take any action of the basis of suspicion alone. If mental illness is the reason for an action, there must be documented medical proof that it exists. Some examples of these types of disabilities include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among others.
A job applicant or employee is absolutely entitled to privacy. If any type of disorder or illness is disclosed to a potential or current employer, that employer cannot disclose that information to any other party without prior consent. Doing so would be a violation of the ADA.
Any worker who feels they have been discriminated against in a workplace on the basis of mental disability can benefit from discussing their situation with an attorney. If someone is willing and able to adequately perform a job, regardless of mental illness, equal consideration should be given for any available opportunity.