[Excerpt] According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans aged eighteen and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Contrary to what most people assume, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in both the U.S. and Canada. Thus, the effect of mental disorders on the American workplace is significant.
In an effort to ensure that physically and mentally disabled persons were not discriminated against in employment situations Congress passed the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Persons entitled to its protection include those with physical disabilities and mental disorders such as anxiety disorder, depression, manic depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychological disorders.
Almost immediately courts began interpreting the statute to make it difficult for those with disabilities, especially psychiatric disabilities, to prevail in cases claiming discrimination under the Act. As a result, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA) in 2008 with the express intent that courts should expand the definition of disabled individuals entitled to accommodation.
In this article I will discuss the ramifications of the 2008 amendments on human resource professionals who are tasked with following its mandates when interviewing job applicants and managing employees who allege, or are suspected of having, a psychiatric disability.