Employees with Mental Health Conditions

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QuestionWe require that employees with disabilities provide medical documentation from an appropriate health care provider to substantiate the need for accommodations. With the increase in requests for accommodations related to new mental health diagnoses, we are finding that some employees are having difficulty getting appointments with psychiatrists and psychologists in a timely manner. What options do we have when this happens?AnswerAccording to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers cannot ask for documentation when: (1) both the disability and the need for reasonable accommodation are obvious, or (2) the individual has already provided the employer with sufficient information to substantiate that the individual has a disability and needs the reasonable accommodation. When there is a valid reason to ask for documentation, employers may request that it come from an appropriate health care professional. However, employers are not required to request medical documentation from a specific type of health care provider. In many cases, an employee’s primary care physician or licensed mental health provider is an appropriate health care professional to provide documentation. The purpose of documentation is to help employers better understand an employee’s disability-related limitations and how they currently affect the ability of the employee to do the job. A health care provider who is familiar with the employee may have much better insight into what the employee is experiencing at this time than a new provider. A licensed mental health provider (e.g., therapist, counselor, social worker), for the same reason, may be able to provide sufficient information about the employee’s limitations and accommodation needs based on the duration of time they have been engaged in a professional relationship. For more information, see Who Can Provide Medical Documentation for ADA Purposes? and The Mental Health Provider’s Role in a Client’s Request for a Reasonable Accommodation at Work.

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