Depression: ADA protections and employment discrimination

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, during 2012, nearly seven percent of U.S. adults reported suffering "at least one major depressive episode in the past year." For individuals who struggle with depression; feelings of overwhelming sadness and hopelessness may persist for weeks, months or even years. These types of negative feelings adversely impact sufferers in numerous ways and can be destructive to and impede personal and professional relationships and aspirations.

For employees who struggle with depression, negative side effects of the disorder may result in poor work performance and absenteeism. Additionally, employees with depression may experience disordered thinking, difficulty concentrating and, at times, may even have trouble getting out of bed and making it to work on time or at all.

While, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, clinical or major depression is considered a disability; not all employees who suffer from depression are protected under the ADA. A 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision limited the scope of protection afforded to employees with depression. Consequently, employees who have been medically diagnosed with depression, but for whom medication is successful at managing many of the negative side effects, are not guaranteed ADA protection simply based upon their diagnosis.

In order to qualify for ADA protection, an employee with depression must be able to prove that, regardless of medications and therapies, he or she still experiences "limitations" that adversely impact one's performance at work.

Individuals with depression who believe they have been the target of workplace discrimination or were wrongly terminated would be wise to seek the advice of an attorney. Proving a workplace disability discrimination case for depression can be challenging and requires the knowledge and skill of an employment attorney.

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