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Can You Lose Your Job For Having Depression?
Imagine being stricken with an unexpected medical condition that ended up sabotaging your ability to perform your usual job duties. Maybe it is an autoimmune disease or cancer—any life-impairing health condition—that you notice is thwarting your efforts to continue with your usual standard of performance on the job. Does the boss fire you? No, in most cases the boss is sympathetic and accommodating, allowing you to reduce your responsibilities or hours, or even take a leave, while you seek treatment.
Now replace that medical condition with a mental health disorder such as depression. Depression can be at least as debilitating as a physical health problem, but some employers may still attach a stigma to it. They may not recognize that the symptoms that are negatively impacting productivity or attendance are truly valid, and may not be as willing to accommodate you during the depressive episode.
Thankfully, laws are in place to protect us from being discriminated against or losing a job due to depression, or any other mental health disorder under most conditions. By having a clear understanding of employee rights you will be armed with the information that can help prevent losing a job due to depression.
Is Depression Considered a Disability?
When the depression is considered to be a long-term condition, an employer cannot discriminate against the employee who is struggling on the job. An employer is not permitted to fire an employee due to a mental health disorder, nor is the employer allowed to reject someone for a promotion or a job, or to force someone to take a leave. Employees struggling with depression have a right to ask for reasonable accommodations that will allow them to keep their job while they are dealing with the disorder.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person can qualify for disability under these criteria:
- They have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities and/or bodily functions. Major life activities include caring for yourself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
- They have a history of such an impairment
- They are regarded as having such an impairment
In most cases, the condition must be present for several months before it is considered a long-term problem, however the condition dose not need to be permanent or severe to be considered “substantially limiting.”
Do You Have to Disclose the Depression?
Some may be very concerned about losing a job due to depression, and are very resistant to revealing the nature of their condition. Although legally it is not required that an employee disclose the nature of their condition, in some cases it will be unavoidable. For example, if the employee requests reasonable accommodations, if they pose a safety risk, or if there is evidence that they are unable to perform their job duties it may be required to discuss the nature of the mental health situation. An employee that chooses to share with coworkers or management about their depression is free to do so.
Is the Employer Required to Provide Accommodations?
Employees have a legal right to request reasonable accommodations to help them perform their duties. This is so for a mental health condition that would, if left untreated, could substantially limit one’s ability to concentrate, communicate, eat, sleep, interact with others, care for oneself, regulate thoughts or emotions. It is not necessary to stop receiving treatment for the depression in order to get the accommodation.
Treatment for Depression
The most important message, over and above being able to keep one’s job, is the need to get treatment for the depression. Depression rarely just resolves on its own. In fact, untreated depression can continue to worsen, further disrupting the ability to perform job duties, and risking serious outcomes, such as suicide. Treatment for depression is available in both outpatient and residential settings, providing many options for getting the appropriate level of care.
In most instances, depression is treated with a combination of antidepressant drug therapy and psychotherapy. Antidepressants take 4-6 weeks before being effective, and it may be necessary to try more than one drug before finding the one that offers relief. Therapy helps individuals to process emotional pain or past trauma that might be factors in the depressive disorder. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful in shifting negative thought patterns towards more positive self-messaging.
Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Residential Depression Treatment
Elevation Behavioral Health is a Los Angeles-based residential program that offers intensive mental health treatment. When outpatient interventions have not adequately helped your major depressive disorder, you may benefit from a more targeted treatment plan. Providing deluxe accommodations and a highly attentive clinical staff, Elevation Behavioral Health strives to make the client’s stay a comfortable and healing experience. Elevation Behavioral Health offers a full daily schedule of therapies and adjunctive activities to help individuals struggling with depression reclaim their joy and return to fully functioning at their chosen career. For more information about the program, or to get information about losing a job due to depression, please contact us today at (888) 561-0868.