29 Dec EEOC releases guide for dealing with mentally disturbed employees
The three biggest things from the guide are
You can’t fire an employee simply because he or she has a mental health condition. Before any negative action can be taken against an individual with a mental health condition, the employer must first determine that the condition renders the employee either unable to perform his or her essential duties, or a safety risk — even if granted a reasonable accommodation.
Employers cannot rely on myths or stereotypes about mental health conditions when deciding whether a person can perform his or her job, or is a safety risk. Employers are required to use only objective evidence.
Reasonable accommodations can be made, altered break and work schedules, the ability to work from home, a leave of absence and/or reassignment. In other words, before taking a negative action against an employee with a mental health condition, employers must explore whether or not any of these accommodations would: help the employee perform his or her essential job functions, and/or present an undue hardship.
After these takeaways, the guides help flesh out what the interactive process should look like.
And in doing so the guides reveal a lot about what employers can and can’t do when employees request an accommodation.
You can ask an employee to submit a letter from his or her doctor documenting that he/she has a medical condition and explaining why he/she needs an accommodation.
You cannot ask a doctor to disclose a patient’s detailed medical info without first obtaining a release from the employee/patient.
You can ask an employee’s doctor if certain accommodations would be effective and/or would meet the employee’s needs.
You can’t require a doctor to provide you with a specific diagnosis. It’s legally sufficient if the doctor only describes the condition in general terms, like “immune disorder.”
You do not have to accept lesser-quality work from a disabled employee, assuming you sought a reasonable accommodation.
Before terminating a worker due to a disability, you must have “objective evidence” that the person’s unable to perform his/her duties or would pose a significant safety risk, even with an accommodation.
You can ask an employee’s doctor if the employee would be a safety risk, even with an accommodation.