Can You Get Fired Because of Depression?

This blog post will answer the question, “Can you get fired because of depression?” We will gain insight into what is covered by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and when depression is considered a disability. 

Further, we will explore disclosure of depression to your employer, reasonable accommodations that can be made, and what happens after both of these have been made. Lastly, we will see how an employer can work with a depressed employee. 

Before proceeding, understand that the ADA protects employees from any discrimination surrounding their disability that they may face in their workplace. Contact the hotline at A Better Place if you have faced any such prejudices.

Can you get fired because of depression?

The short answer to this question is yes, but there are several layers to it. Let us understand what considerations need to be made to gain better insights into this question.

What Does the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) cover?

The Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) supports people with disabilities, including mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. This protection disallows you from getting fired on the grounds of your mental illness. However, the disability must meet specific criteria to avail of such protection. The person must:

  • Have a physical or psychological impairment that considerably restricts at least one significant life activity or bodily functions or both;
  • Have a history of such a disability; or
  • Have a record or are regarded as having such a disability. 

Kindly note that being diagnosed with depression is not automatically deemed a disability. Not all symptoms of depression are considered a disability. The person must meet the above criteria to claim such disability benefits.

Substance Abuse

People with depression commonly turn to substance use and could become dependent on the same. In such cases, ADA does not protect those with a substance use disorder. Anybody with an alcohol or drug issue can face the same repercussions as other employees. 

Therefore, if you have not disclosed your depression to your employer, and they find out about a drug or alcohol problem, you are not entitled to any legal protection.

When Is Depression Considered a Disability?

For depression or any other condition to be considered a disability, it must significantly affect a “major life activity,” including but not restricted to self-care, eating, concentrating, sleeping, working, speaking, seeing, breathing, and standing. The ADA Amends Act contains a non-exhaustive list. 

Depression does not cause such restrictions to everybody. Moreover, a medical record of the diagnosis causing an impairment will be required. Otherwise, it will be overlooked by the ADA as depression associated with some life events. 

There are people who after being fired become very depressed.

Disclosing Your Depression

You need not disclose your depression, but if you want protection from the ADA along with reasonable accommodations, you need to disclose this information. Keep in mind that you can get fired if you have not revealed your diagnosis to your employer.

Moreover, upon disclosure, an employer may ask to see documentation to ensure that the employee has a disability for which they need accommodations. 

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the employer may require documentation authorized by healthcare or rehabilitation professionals. Such healthcare professionals could include psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses, and other licensed mental health professionals. 

What Makes for Appropriate Documentation

Appropriate documentation is one that:

  • Outlines the nature, intensity, and duration of the disability;
  • Describes the activities that are hindered by the disability and the extent to which they are affected;
  • Gives valid reason for the requested reasonable accommodations

Potential Consequences of Disclosing Your Depression 

It is your choice to inform them about your depression. However, to receive protection from the ADA, you need to be upfront about your illness. 

Disclosing your depression can be challenging for many reasons. Legally, your employer is prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of a disability. They are disallowed even to question one’s disability.  

The stigma surrounding mental health and illness could play a role in their decision processes concerning recruitment, and consequently, even promotions. 

Although employers need to partake in the interactive process mentioned above, they do not always do so with the best interests in mind. They may merely state that requested accommodations are an unwarranted issue without making any efforts to check further.  

Everybody has the right to keep certain things confidential. However, if you decide to be upfront about your illness, you need to consider the potential consequences that stem from it. Educate yourself about the rights you are entitled to and what steps you can take to utilize them optimally. 

You can take matters to court if it comes down to it. However, some cases have not won, indicating that it is not a smooth process. Better safe than sorry, right?

Reasonable Accommodations 

The type of reasonable accommodations that may be provided depends on the state and the specific company. Typically, employers need to outline the reasonable accommodations they can make for a person with a disability like depression. 

Reasonable accommodations may include sick leaves but ensure that you understand the company’s absence policies as some may automatically assign disciplinary points for absenteeism. 

Other common examples include flexible working hours, a quiet or preferred designated place in the office, time off for attending therapy sessions or support group meetings, work from home options, and extended leaves in case of hospitalization. 

Try to keep in mind the following considerations if you are allowed to make negotiations while requesting reasonable accommodations:

  • Is there a task at work that you find most challenging? If yes, is there a way to make it easier?
  • Are there any distracting stimuli in your workplace?
  • Can you work from home on specific days, if not all?
  • Does anything regarding your job worsen your depression?
  • Will flexible working hours help you?

After Disclosure and Reasonable Accommodations

If you have disclosed your condition and reasonable accommodations have been made, the company can fire you. The ADA does not protect your employability if you have informed your employer of the illness, and reasonable accommodations have been made.

Typically, after you disclose your depression or any other disability to your employer, the two of you get into an informal ‘interactive process’ to discuss reasonable accommodations. The accommodations must not cause unnecessary problems for the employer, such as being too expensive or if the accommodation hinders other employees’ productivity.   

To seek protection from the ADA, you need to be in a state to perform the fundamental tasks of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations. This statement means that you need to fulfill the necessities that entail the job, such as education, training, skills, licenses, and the like. 

Moreover, you must be in a condition to carry out the job’s fundamental tasks, regardless of reasonable accommodations. The recruiter can choose not to hire you if your impairment restricts you from carrying out the essential duties. However, a recruiter cannot reject you if your disability does not allow you to perform unnecessary responsibilities for the job.  

How an Employer Can Deal with an Employee with Depression 

Rather than firing them or trying to punish them, have a conversation with your employee regarding their performance. Convey to them that it is not as good and request them to make suggestions on how they can improve it.  

Do not try to diagnose your employee. Instead, try to solve the problem at hand. Suppose absenteeism and work ethic are the issues, point that out to them. Then, ask them if there is anything currently happening in their life that is impacting their work productivity and performance, and if you can do something from your end to help them out. 

Actively listen and comprehend the employee’s explanation. Attempt to arrive at a common ground to solve the issue even if the employee does not mention any disability. Try to make accommodations like flexible working hours or assigning more straightforward tasks. Remember that if the employee requests time off for treatment, they may meet the criteria for FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act).

Further, track the employee’s progress and note down the actions you have taken to help them. Remember that you are not mandated to keep an employee if they are unable to perform the necessary requirements of a job, regardless of protection from the ADA. If you choose to fire them, do not act without consulting with legal authority. 

Conclusion

In this blog post, we answered the question, “Can you get fired because of depression?” We understood what is covered by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and that depression is considered a disability only when it meets the criteria set out by the ADA. 

Further, we explored more about disclosing your depression to your employer, the reasonable accommodations that can be made on their end, and how you can be fired after both of these have been made. Finally, we outlined how an employer can deal with a depressed employee. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can You Get Fired Because of Depression?

Is depression considered a disability?

Yes, depression is considered a disability by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). However, to be deemed a disability, it needs to meet specific criteria outlined by the ADA. The Act protects a person with a disability to be discriminated against based on their impairment. 

When are you eligible for reasonable accommodations for depression?

You are eligible for reasonable accommodations for depression or any mental illness if the condition substantially limits a significant life activity or bodily function. A major life activity could include eating, sleeping, communicating, engaging in self-care, and performing basic tasks, among others.

Do you need to tell your employer about your depression?

You do not need to tell your employer about your depression or any other mental health concern. However, to avail protection from the ADA, you need to inform your employer. 

As an employer, can I contact my employee who is sick for mental health reasons?

Yes, you can contact your employee who is sick for mental health reasons. Doing so could even be useful for them not to feel isolated. Remember to not talk about performance concerns or other disciplinary issues during such contact. Instead, focus on helping them to return to work. 

How many sick leaves do employees in the UK take in a year?

In the UK, employees take almost seven days of sick leaves in a year. It is permissible for employees to take sick leaves occasionally. However, if employees seem to be exploiting these benefits, it could negatively impact the organization. 

Are depression and other mental illnesses deemed a disability in the UK?

Yes, depression and other mental illnesses are considered a disability in the UK according to the Equality Act 2010 if there is a significant and long-term (around a year) impact on one’s daily functioning. 

What we recommend for depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

References

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2018/06/202151/how-to-tell-hr-about-depression-disability

https://www.verywellmind.com/the-ada-and-depression-know-your-rights-1065229

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