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Telling your boss about your mental illness: be careful

Mental illness can be a real challenge to live with, particularly when it comes to finding and maintaining a successful work life. For veterans who come back from service with severe mental and emotional disturbance, this struggle is a daily reality. One of the questions that can sometimes come up for those with certain conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, is whether they should inform their employer of their condition.

While it would be nice to be able to write that all employers will be understanding and will not discriminate because of a condition like PTSD, this is simply not the case. It is fairly well-known that people who disclose mental illness to their employers do not always receive the same treatment afterward. 

Sometimes the treatment is borderline illegal. Which begs the question: should I tell my employer at all? According to many experts, the answer is that one should generally not share that one has a mental illness, unless it is necessary to do so.

What situations would constitute necessity? Several examples: if you need a leave of absence due to the mental illness; if you need regular time off to go to therapy or make other appointments for the illness; or if you need accommodations in the workplace. The latter point is particularly important, since the Americans With Disability Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with mental illnesses. Employers who fail to do so are in the wrong.

Living with a mental illness is difficult, and those who do so should not make things any harder on themselves at work than they have to. 

Source: Aol Job, “Should I Tell My Boss About My Mental Illness?,” Donna Ballman, October 8, 2013. 

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