According to the National Institute of Health, at least one out of every four adult Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. Depression and anxiety disorders are particularly common. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits an employer from discriminating against qualified, disabled employees and requires employers to reasonably accommodate their employees with disabilities. Mental health disorders may be considered a “disability” for purposes of the ADA.
Sometimes a company struggles against crosscurrents. On the one hand, an employee’s mental health disorder can translate into significant performance and conduct issues, such as unexplained absences, inability to complete work, insubordination, and the like. On the other hand, people are often unwilling to disclose a mental health condition because of fear they will jeopardize their career or be subject to stigma. Increasingly, employers are taking a more proactive approach to workplace mental health issues. They hope such efforts solve performance and conduct issues before they escalate, help retain valuable employees who need assistance, all the while satisfying the employer’s ADA obligations. Some of these strategies include:
- Educating employees about what mental health services are available through health insurance or employee assistance plans.
- Training managers on how to better identify more serious instances of employee distress.
- Establishing and publicizing confidential channels for employees to seek mental health treatment.
- Considering potential accommodations, such as flexible work hours for treatment or reassignments to less stressful duties.
The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health is an excellent resource for employers who decide to address mental health issues for their workforce in a more proactive way .
- National Institute of Health
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
- The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health
About the author
Charlie Plumb is a labor and employment attorney with the McAfee & Taft law firm. He represents management in all phases of employment law and labor relations. Much of his practice is dedicated to counseling employers on compliance with a broad range of state and federal employment laws and regulations and educating management on best practices for avoiding disputes arising from the employer/employee relationship. He also has extensive litigation experience before federal and state courts, regulatory and administrative agencies, and in arbitration matters involving claims of discrimination, wrongful discharge, retaliatory discharge, breach of contract, and constitutional law violations.
As part of his labor practice, Charlie represents unionized employers in collective bargaining negotiations with labor unions, arbitrates grievances, and defends management against a variety of claims before the National Labor Relations Board and Department of Justice and in state and federal courts. He also represents employers who seek to maintain a non-unionized workforce by counseling management on union avoidance strategies and by providing training and advice to management and supervisors. His clients include numerous municipalities throughout Oklahoma and companies engaged in the manufacturing and distribution, construction, energy, public utility, technology and business services industries.
Charlie is a member of the American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Section and the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Labor Council. He is also the designated representative of McAfee & Taft as the exclusive member firm representing Oklahoma in the Employers Counsel Network, a nationwide affiliation of leading law firms providing legal assistance and representation to employers.
Charlie is a frequent speaker and author on workplace issues. He is also co-editor of the Oklahoma Employment Law Letter, a monthly review of new court decisions, regulations and laws that affect state employers.
Charlie’s achievements have earned him inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (labor and employment law), Oklahoma Super Lawyers (employment and labor, civil litigation defense), Benchmark Litigation and Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, where he has been lauded as “an impressive public speaker who utilizes his vast experience to effectively defend clients.” Researchers at Chambers & Partners also quoted market observers as admiring him for his “practicality of advice and specialized knowledge of complex legal issues,” with sources commenting that he “immediately commands respect, is always up to date and knows how to handle a problem.”