Companies generally cannot question you about your mental health.
Everyone has bad days, weeks, or even months. Yet for some people, these days are more than just a bad mood; they are symptoms of a mental illness, such a depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. If you suffer from mental health issues, it may impact much of your life, including your work.
Many Californias worry about how to handle their mental illness at work, especially if their symptoms are noticeable at times. First, it is important to understand that mental illness is considered a disability under California law. As a California disability discrimination attorney can explain, that means that if you suffer from a mental illness, you may be entitled to certain protections.
California defines mental disabilities broadly, and requires employers with five or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with mental disabilities unless doing so would cause an undue hardship. Under California law, mental disabilities include mental and psychological disorders or conditions, emotional illnesses, and intellectual learning disabilities.
If you are showing signs of mental illness at work, your employer generally cannot ask you about it. According to the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there are only four situations where an employer can ask an employee about his or her mental health:
- When an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation;
- When an employer is engaging in affirmative action for people with disabilities, such as tracking the disability status of job applicants;
- When there is evidence that you may be unable to do your job or that you may pose a safety risk due to your health condition; or
- When you have received a job offer and is asking all applicants for the same information.
Other than in these cases, your employer cannot ask about your mental health.
Importantly, even if you never tell your employer that you suffer from a mental illness, your boss and/or supervisors still cannot discriminate against you if they merely think that you have a disability. As a California disability discrimination attorney can explain, California law protects employees from discrimination that is based on perceived disability. This means that even if your employer doesn’t know for sure that you have a mental illness, but simply suspects it, he or she still cannot discriminate against you. For example, if you go through a period of intense depression, and your employer disciplines you for the symptoms of depression, you may be able to file a claim for discrimination.
It can be challenging to handle mental health issues in the workplace without the additional problem of an employer who is not sensitive to your needs. If you have faced discrimination based on your mental health disability, you may be able to file a claim against your employer.
At PLBSH, we have worked with employees throughout California for more than 40 years, helping them to achieve justice when they have experienced discrimination. Contact our firm today at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with an experienced California disability discrimination attorney.