Are Psychological Conditions Protected under the ADA?

I have an employee with attendance issues requesting special accommodations (she has manic depression with anxiety and sleep-related disorders).  Are these conditions protected under the ADA?

Although the ADA protects anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, this does not automatically mean that all psychological conditions are qualified disabilities.  They still require a case-by-case analysis, as many mental impairments are treatable with medication.  (In this scenario, we’ll assume the employee has a doctor’s note requesting accommodations, despite any treatment already in place.) 

Whether or not you are convinced the employee has a covered condition, it’s always recommended that you go through the “interactive process.”   This is a proactive process where you explore job resources, rescheduling, and/or equipment that may be amended to allow the employee to be successful without creating a financial hardship to the Company – and provide a proposal to the employee that you both agree meets her needs.  After the accommodations have been implemented, set performance expectations and follow-up with the employee regarding those expectations.  If you have made your best efforts to accommodate the employee and the attendance issues still remain, it may be time to draft a severance agreement and look for a replacement.  Please contact us before taking any such action though!

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