Does Bipolar Disorder Qualify You For Disability
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Aaron Johnson is a fact checker and expert on qualitative research design and methodology.
If you struggle to maintain employment due to your bipolar disorder, it’s important to understand your rights. Bipolar disorder is a qualified condition for disability, but that doesn’t mean everyone with bipolar disorder is automatically granted supplemental security income or disability payments. Explore who’s eligible and how to make the most of what’s offered to you.
Sample Termination Letters For Different Situations
This first sample termination letter is an example of the most simple, direct form of termination letter. You can use this termination letter in most instances when you let an employee go. It should be printed on company stationery and either handed to the employee at the termination meeting or mailed to the employee’s known address with a signed return receipt recommended.
This simple termination letter does not provide the reason for the employment termination when no reason is provided during the termination meeting.
The second sample termination letter is an example of the type of notification you should provide to an employee whose employment was terminated for a cause.
Creating A Symptom Management Strategy For People With Bipolar Disorder
Setting our expectations on the work environment and the people well be working with is an excellent way to prepare ourselves for work.
Creating a plan to manage your symptoms is recommended to prevent mood episodes in the office.
It is crucial to understand that there will be triggers in the workplace. Here are some strategies that you can use to help manage your symptoms:
- Have your therapist in speed dial
- Make a mood journal
- Develop a healthy sleep routine
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise daily
People with bipolar disorder have unique ways of managing their symptoms. What matters is that these strategies are geared towards reducing stress and promoting stable moods.
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Employer Obligations When Terminating An Employee With Mental Health Issues
An employee can be fairly dismissed on grounds of capability if they have serious mental health issues making it impossible for them to do their job, or to do their job properly. It may also be fair to dismiss an employee for some other substantial reason, if any recurring sickness absence is having a negative impact on the employers business.
However, where the employees condition amounts to a disability, the employer is under a statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments to either remove or reduce any disadvantage suffered by that individual when compared with a non-disabled employee. Reasonable adjustments could include things like altered hours, amended duties or even workplace adaptations, although whats reasonable will all depend on the facts of each case. The employer will need to explore all possible options and consider any employee requests. They will then need to make an informed decision based on the cost of any adjustments, the practicalities involved, whether there are sufficient resources to fund these adjustments, and whether the adjustments will be effective in overcoming or reducing the disadvantage.
Even if the employee is not suffering from a long-term mental health condition that amounts to a disability, the employer should still undertake a risk assessment to ensure that the employees symptoms have not been caused or exacerbated by any issues arising at work.
Important Questions About An Employees Mental State
How do employers determine the state of their employees mental health? The ADA does not have a stringent list of mental health conditions that covers the employees rights. Instead, the ADA encourages how the employer looks at a mental health condition that affects the employee. Two essential questions should be answered on when to classify a disability:
- Does the condition affect one or several major life activities of the persons life?
- Does the impairment affect one or more major bodily functions?
If the answer to one of those questions is YES, then it is classified as a disability. Most, though not all mental illnesses, can impair a persons ability to function well. It may affect thinking, concentration, sleep, communication, and thoughts of oneself.
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Hold The Employment Termination Meeting
Eventually, you will want to schedule and hold the employment termination meeting. You do not want to give an employee more than a few minute’s notice before the meeting. You will cause the employee unnecessary worry and upset. In most cases, however, this moment is expected by the employee if they are honest with themselves.
Some steps, you will want to have completed before the termination meeting such as involving your IT department. Consider the termination meeting to be the employees exit interview.
Consider What Changes You Can Make
There is a variety of things that your employee may want or need so that they can take care of their mental health. These might include keeping different hours, working alone or in a group, taking time off to see a doctor, or having occasional mental health days. Whether or not you can grant these requests will often depend on your companys existing policies. Greenwood says its important for managers to know the difference between accommodations, which are formal, reactive exceptions to existing policies for a specific employee after a disclosure, and adaptations, which are proactive adjustments you can make for everyone that are within the companys policies, such as flexible hours. If you need to make accommodations for an employee, its critical to involve HR , who will be familiar with the national and local laws that determine what youre legally allowed to do.
Some of the changes made to working hours or workload might impact other people on your team, and youll have to figure out what to tell employees who ask why this person is coming in late, or experiencing different treatment, says Goldberg. She suggests that you keep your answers to any questions straightforward and simple. For example, you might say, Its an accommodation, or We worked out different hours. Talk with the employee about how they would prefer you address any concerns that come up from their colleagues.
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Four How To Identify Bipolar Disorder In The Workplace
Bipolar disorder is complex and it may be difficult to identify in the workplace.
Examples of behaviour include:
- Health professionals may take on excessive or unmanageable workloads due to symptoms of mania. For example: wanting to get involved in lots of projects, clinical, research and teaching, or taking on excessive overtime and extra shifts
- Working very long hours and showing high energy levels
- Managers should be aware that during periods of mania, health professionals may feel invincible and may try to steal drugs from their place of work
- They may be continually late for clinics and ward rounds, especially in the mornings
- Performance may decline and healthcare professionals may become irritated by colleagues, especially during periods of depression
- Employees with bipolar disorder may not disclose their condition to the employer. This may be through fear of stigma and discrimination, or they may not recognize that they are ill . If you suspect an employee has bipolar disorder you could seek advice from occupational health, and encourage them to speak to occupational health or to seek advice from their GP about the symptoms they are experiencing.
Can I Be Fired If I Have Bipolar Disorder
If you have bipolar disorder and were fired or wrongfully disciplined from your occupation, you may have the grounds to file a lawsuit against your employer for disability discrimination. Employers are not allowed to make decisions based solely on the disability of an employee. Discriminating against an employee with a protected disability is in direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as well as California employment law. Our lawyers can sue the employer or the company that discriminated against you and prove your case to get you the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled.
Our attorneys help people like you who have been wronged every single day and help answer questions about their unjust termination or other discipline. Examples of such questions include:
- Is depression a disability under the ADA?
- Can I be fired for having depression?
- I missed work because of depression. Can my boss legally fire me? Can I hire a lawyer to sue my employer?
- Do I have to disclose my depression to my boss?
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How Does The Ada Impact Terminating An Employee With Mental Health Issues
As mentioned previously, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects employees from disability discrimination within the workplace and in other areas of their life.
It has two duties. The first is prohibiting differential treatment of disabled employees. The second is requiring reasonable accommodations for disabled employees to perform the functions of their position unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
That means as the employer you cant fire an employee with a disclosed mental illness because:
- The mental health condition limits their major life activities.
- The employee has a history of a disability or is believed to have one.
- The employee has a record of having a disability.
According to the ADA, your employees must be qualified to perform their job with or without reasonable accommodation. However, you cant discriminate against them or fire them solely because of their disability.
One: What Is Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar affective disorder is a common and at times serious disorder of mood, in which people experience both episodes of depression and episodes of high mood over time. We all feel up and down in our moods at times, but in bipolar disorder a number of symptoms all occur together and may cause a person major functional impairment. In an acute episode of bipolar illness the mood swings can last days, weeks or even months. Bipolar affective disorder is a severe mental illness, which affects up to 5% of the working population. It is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality, and can affect every aspect of an individuals life . Both males and females of any age can develop the illness . The typical age of onset of bipolar disorder in the twenties means that this is an illness predominantly of working-age adults.
Sometimes you may hear people refer to different types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I disorder refers to people who have episodes of mania, whereas Bipolar II refers to people who have less severe highs, hypomania . A manic episode is characterized by high mood with a number of the other high symptoms . Sometimes psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations can be part of a manic episode. Manic episodes cause people problems both in their working life and in their relationships.
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Benefits Of Telling Your Employer About Your Bipolar Disorder
There are benefits to disclosing ones bipolar disorder at work.
For example, educating your employer may make your work environment less stressful. It could help your employer account for any changes in your behavior. Also, having knowledge of your condition may enable your employer to assist you in the day-to-day management.
For many, myself included, it feels wrong to not disclose. The secret can feel like a burden. In my case, I felt like I couldnt connect with the people around me because I was having to constantly police my words and actions. I was terrified of being found out and it was exhausting. Every day, while at work, I was terrified that this was going to be the day I was found out.
I disclosed to my employer because, for me, the pros outweigh the cons. I wanted to be myself everywhere, including during work hours. I couldnt live with the fear of being found out, and I wanted to be an advocate and show society what someone with my illness can achieve. I found an employer that worked with me and is supportive. Other employers werent so supportive, and that made it difficult. Fortunately, I was able to find a good arrangement that works for both me and the organization I work for.
Even with the risks, I believe that living openly with bipolar disorder is a powerful thing and will help make life easier for those who havent yet been diagnosed. It isnt always easy, but it was the right choice for me.
How To Appropriately Fire An Employee With A Mental Illness
Since firing an employee with a mental health condition can be costly if you violate their rights, its crucial that you ensure youre doing so by the book. This includes providing objective evidence that the employee cannot perform their job duty or represents a safety risk to themselves or others.
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Need Help With An Employment Issue Access Unlimited Legal Advice Without The Worry Of Costs With Our Triple A Support
If an employees mental health is impacting their performance, the employer can take action to try to address the situation. In some cases, this may result in terminating the employees contract of employment. But the employer has to ensure they follow a fair process in deciding to dismiss an employee due to mental illness, or they risk exposure to costly tribunal claims.
The following guide for employers looks in detail at the complex legal issue of terminating the employment of an individual with mental health issues from the employees rights to the employers obligations and the consequences for an employer of falling foul of the law.
Are Employees Allowed Allowed To Keep Their Mental Health Condition In Private
Yes, employees are allowed to keep in private a mental health condition theyre experiencing. Employers are only allowed to ask medical and mental health questions during these five situations:
- When the employee requests a reasonable accommodation.
- When the employee was given the job offer, but before the hiring date. Employers are allowed to assess a persons mental health, as long as this part of the pre-employment process of the human resources for all aspiring applicants. This is according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission . Check this link for more information.
- When it is a workplace initiative to track the mental health of all employees, however, the employee has the right whether to respond or not to respond to the query.
- When the company has objective and substantial evidence that the employee cannot perform well or imposes safety risk because of the condition.
- The employee can also discuss their condition to receive the eligibility for health care benefits and company considerations under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
If the employee chose to disclose their mental state, the employer could not discriminate, and the information should be kept confidential even with other persons at work. But this could not be the grounds to get fired.
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Depression And Poor Work Performance
One way you can support your employees with their mental health and wellbeing is to create an environment where staff can talk openly about any issues theyre having.
You can create this kind of culture in several ways:
- Make sure regular meetings are occurring between employees and managers
- Encourage mental health awareness training or workshops
- Appoint mental health champions employees can speak to
- Adopt a mental health strategy and implement a mental health policy
- Train managers on how to approach someone who is experiencing mental health problems
Of course, if youre already managing an employee who is too depressed to work, the above might not be helpful. Instead, make sure theyre aware of the person they need to speak to within the business to arrange time off.
Dont downplay their condition just because it is mental health and not physical health.
Remember, if an employee is not able to work due to depression in the UK, employment law may protect them.
Once they are off work, be sure to check in at regular intervals. Dont pressure the employee to come back to work. If they are off work for a substantial amount of time you may arrange a meeting with them to discuss getting them back into work.
In this meeting, you need to consider any reasonable adjustments you can make to support their return.
You can refer the employee to occupational health to assess their current capability.
I Was Already Fired Now What
If you believe that you were illegally discriminated against due to your mental health issue, you have the right to submit a claim to the local EEOC field office.8 You also have a right to file a lawsuit. However, whether you prevail will depend on several factors, such as the size of the firm as well as what documentation you have as compared to the documentation your employer has.
For example, lets say you lashed out at a co-worker, got drunk at a company party, or cried about your problems to a client. To you, its a mistake. But to your employer, it may be a violation of company policy, and they can fire you for that, also proving that its not discrimination and not an ADA violation because you signed the employee handbook and were aware of the rules.
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Disclosing A Psychiatric Disability: Legal Protections
- Disclosure is a choice. According to the ADA, employers cant require applicants or employees to disclose a disability . So, in most cases, disclosing a psychiatric disability is a choice, not a requirement. Individuals who choose not to tell about their mental health condition are not lying or hiding. They are using a legally protected choice.
- After the job offer. Once a job has been offered, applicants may be asked to take a medical exam before starting work. If this exam reveals a psychiatric disability, the job offer can only be withdrawn if there is evidence that the person wont be able to do the essential functions of the job without an accommodation and cant be reasonably accommodated or the disability poses a real safety issue.
- On the job. Employees generally cant be required to disclose a psychiatric disability unless requesting a job accommodation. Then, the employer can ask for some medical documentation about the disability. This medical information cant be shared with others in the workplace.
- Federal contractors. Employers who are federal contractors must invite applicants and employees to voluntarily self-disclose a disability. This information is only used to track the progress in meeting disability employment goals of the employer. It must be kept confidential and cant be shared with the manager or co-workers.