Employers – Make It OK To Seek Your Help

Managers should have an open-door policy encouraging employees to ask for help due to a mental disability, says our resident blogger Robin Paggi in this new column. It can be a win-win all around.

Employers – Make It OK To Seek Your Help

Because of what appears to be the deliberate crash of a plane by an airline pilot who reportedly suffered from depression, the illness is in the news again. While there is speculation that the pilot was a sociopath and the illness had little to nothing to do with the crash, there is still talk about what employers may and/or should do when they discover that applicants or employees have a mental disability, such as depression.

Employers who discover that job applicants had a bout with or suffer from depression may not refuse to hire them because of this knowledge. The Americans with Disabilities Act (which applies  to employers with 15 or more employees) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants simply because they have a mental disability.

Let’s say you have this information about an applicant and you want to ensure he or she is mentally sound before you hire him or her. May you require the applicant to take a psychiatric exam? Yes, but only if it is administered after an offer of employment has been made and you require all people applying for the same job to take the same exam.

The applicant passes the psychiatric exam and is now your employee. May you require the employee to take the exam every year just to ensure his or her mental health remains stable? You may if you’re in an industry where federal law or regulation allows it (such as airline, law enforcement, or trucking) and you require all employees in the same job to do so. Most employers may only require a psychiatric exam for employees when the employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that an employee’s ability to perform the essential duties of the job is impaired or the employee poses a direct threat because of the mental disability.

Your employee is performing his or her job duties and is not displaying erratic behavior; however, you’re still concerned that something bad might happen because of the mental disability. Is there anything at all that you can do? The answer is yes. Let all employees know that they can come to you if they need help because of a mental illness without fear of losing their jobs because of the disclosure. Tell them that you will try to accommodate their illness and keep them working (California employers with five or more employees are required by law to do so).

According to Paul Farmer, the CEO of the mental health charity Mind, “Mental health problems are common, yet despite the fact that right now one in six workers are experiencing unmanageable stress, anxiety or depression, few are willing to tell their bosses for fear of the consequences.”

Employers who assure they will work with employees with mental disabilities to try to keep them in their jobs have a better chance of diverting disaster than those who don’t. Make it ok for employees to seek your help when they are suffering.

Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR.

Robin last wrote for us on working in Family-Run Businesses. Before that she wrote on There’s More to Motivating Than Money;  Love at Work: How Should Employers Respond, and prior to that about lessons for employers in the Brian Williams matter.  Prior to that she wrote about giving employees a second chance. Before that she wrote about making sure the applicant is a good fit for the job and before that about  cure for inappropriate behavior at work. Before that she wrote about cyberloafing, on business lessons from a Christmas story and before that about cell phone policies at work. She has also written for us on rules for holiday parties at work and before that about preventing workplace bullying.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: