Can Your Employer Discriminate Against You For Having PTSD?
As anybody who has or who has had post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) knows, the symptoms of PTSD can change over time, can get better or worse, and are often unpredictable. The symptoms can be mild and can be severe, and many people who suffer from PTSD didn’t even know what events may trigger PTSD’s symptoms.
PTSD is Protected by the ADA
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does include PTSD as a protected disability, and thus your employer must make accommodations for you at work for PTSD related symptoms.
But because symptoms can be so varied, there is no one list of accommodations that an employer must make for an employee; much of what an employer must do will depend on you and your symptoms.
What is Reasonable?
Of course the ADA only requires that an employer make reasonable accommodations for affected employees. So what is reasonable in light of typical PTSD symptoms?
Certainly anything that can relieve stress when PTSD gets bad, should be permitted. This can be a service animal, but it could also be allowing you time to speak with work colleagues, or use headphones, or any other reasonable thing that tends to calm your PTSD symptoms.
Many PTSD sufferers report problems with concentration and memory. Any memory device can be a reasonable accommodation. That may mean that your employer cannot expect you to simply comply with verbal instructions, but should also provide written instructions. Software that can keep track of deadlines, notes, calendars, or other details of the job, should also be used (although many of those are standard in today’s technology workplace anyway).
If you have conflicts with co-workers, or particular ones, the employer should be able to move your workspace to be around those who do not cause conflict, or near those who tend to calm you.
Are You a Danger?
You can be fired if you pose a threat to the safety of others in the workplace. However, you cannot be fired, if those symptoms or tendencies are mitigated or eliminated by the use of medicine, and your employer cannot punish you for what the employer “believes” are symptoms of PTSD–for example, if an employer just believes that people with PTSD may be “dangerous,” this would not allow the employer to fire you, refuse to hire you, or make any other adverse employment decision.
Asking for Accommodations
It may be uncomfortable for you to ask for accommodations for your PTSD. However, if you do not inform your employer of the need for accommodations, your employer can legally punish you for job related problems that may be caused by your PTSD; that means that you won’t get any accommodations or alterations in your work environment if your employer doesn’t know you suffer from PTSD.
Remember that if you opt not to ask for accommodations, your employer cannot ask you about any disability or illness–including PTSD–and your employer cannot make you submit to a medical examination of any kind as a precondition of being hired.
Are you being discriminated against at work because of a disease, illness or disability? We can help. Contact the San Jose employment law lawyers at the Costanzo Law Firm today.