What accommodations must employers make for employees with psychiatric disabilities?
Since 1990, when The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, people with disabilities are more and more present in the American workplace. While some disabilities prevent people from working all together, there are a good number of disabled parties, even those receiving SSDI (Social Security Disability benefits) who are able to be productive members of the work force. Some of these people have psychiatric, rather than physical, disabilities. There is a limit to the amount of money a person receiving SSD benefits can earn while still working -- $1130 per month in 2016 (or $1820 if you're blind).
Definition of, and Reasons for, Accommodations for the Psychiatrically Disabled
Accommodations in the workplace are designed to assist employees with disabilities in performing the essential functions of their jobs. For the most part, such adjustments involve just a bit of planning and thought, and little, if any, expenditure. These accommodations are not just acts of kindness; they are profitable for employers since they result in quickly assimilating workers after any necessary leave and increasing productivity of disabled employees. They are also a key to the recruitment and retention of qualified employees. For workers, these accommodations can provide not only much needed funds, but an increased sense of self-worth.
What are some of the reasonable accommodations made to accommodate employees with psychiatric disabilities?
While some psychiatrically disabled workers require little in the way of accommodations, for many, one or more of the following may mean the difference between being able to work and having to survive on SSDI benefits alone. Employers compliant with the ADA should be prepared to provide:
- Flexible workplace -- possibly including telecommuting or other work-at-home arrangements
- Flexible hours -- part-time, job sharing, varied start/end times, ability to make up missed work
- Leaves -- sick leaves for mental health, such as breaks for therapy and doctor appointments
- Flexible breaks -- time-outs to regroup or call professionals for assistance
- Beverage or food exceptions to mitigate medication side effects
- Removal or reduction of work area distractions, such as loud music
- Room dividers, partitions, private space enclosures or offices
- Increased natural lighting
- Headset (with or without music) to block out loud noises or a white noise machine
Accommodations to workers with psychiatric issues may also include altered interactions between the employer or supervisor and the employee, such as:
- Taping meetings and training session so they can be replayed
- Modifying job duties, such as dividing large assignments into smaller tasks
- Providing additional time for orientation and training
- Implementing more supportive supervision and positive reinforcement
- Catering to the disabled employees preferred learning style (written, verbal, email)
- Organizing regularly scheduled meetings to discuss workplace issues and productivity
Not only are such accommodations now legally required, they are common sense approaches to make life in the workplace more palatable for all concerned. If you are an employee and want to know whether you psychiatric disability entitles you to accommodations in the workplace, or if you are eligible for SSDI benefits, get in touch promptly with a reputable and experienced Social Security Disability attorney to find out your options.