Young Employees Seek Mental Health Accommodations

Employers are mulling how to accommodate anxiety, PTSD and other conditions under the ADA.

February 21, 2020

WASHINGTON—As more young people enter the workforce, managers and companies are trying to navigate how to accommodate mental health issues under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the Wall Street Journal reports. Adults between the ages of 18 and 25 have the highest prevalence of mental illness among all age groups, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

What makes things even trickier is that mental illness symptoms can be often invisible and unpredictable, making accommodations difficult. “When an employee shows up with their leg in a cast, you know what the accommodations are,” said Jen Rubin, a partner with the Mintz law firm. “When someone comes in and says, ‘I have severe anxiety’ or ‘I have stress,’ it’s much harder.”

More employees are requesting accommodations for PTSD, anxiety and other disorders, and many are alleging discrimination because of their condition. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 371 charges of discrimination related to anxiety disorders last year, compared with 65 in 2006. “Employers who fall back on fears or stereotypes could end up violating the ADA,” said Sharon Rennert, an EEOC senior attorney adviser.

Employees are asking companies to work from home, take unpaid leaves of absences and have more flexibility in their schedule. Sometimes, workers don’t want to reveal their mental health issue or ask for accommodations to avoid being penalized or stigmatized.