Mental Illness and Employment Discrimination: How You Can Fight Back

The mentally ill can face discriminationEmployees with mental illnesses are not only marginalized by society, but also in the workplace. Due to workplace discrimination against jobseekers and workers with mental illnesses, many remain quiet and choose to suffer in silence.

A story published by San Jose Mercury News shows how coworkers and supervisors can ostracize workers with mental illnesses. The story discusses the plight of a Bay Area tech industry worker suffering from depression and his struggle to keep his condition secret. Adam’s desire to keep his condition secret is pragmatic, as almost half of employers do not wish to hire workers with mental illnesses, even depression. Coworkers can be just as discriminatory, and some are apprehensive about working alongside people with mental illnesses.

A 2006 American Journal of Psychiatry survey shows the severity of workplace discrimination against the mentally ill. In the survey, 47 percent said they would not work closely with someone who suffers from depression. Only 30 percent claimed they would socialize with individuals who have depression.

Discrimination against the mentally ill is nonsensical because one in five Americans meets the criteria for a mental illness. Nobody is perfect. Fortunately, there may be ways to fight back against this cruel example of discrimination depending on the circumstances.

Mental Illness and the Americans With Disabilities Act

Mental illnesses are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means most employers must provide accommodations. Discrimination against the mentally ill can include harmful decisions concerning hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments and benefits.

Workers with mental illnesses can report discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), who will then decide on carrying out an investigation. Depending on the circumstances, workers with mental illnesses may also be able to file a lawsuit against their employer.