Psychiatric disability

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Updated: 4/11/2007 11:26 am
Individuals with psychiatric disabilities often face employment discrimination because their disabilities are either stigmatized or misunderstood by employers. To prevent such unfair discrimination from occurring and to provide disabled workers equal and fair opportunity in the workplace, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA (A-D-A) was enacted, making it illegal for companies to base any employment decision on an individual's psychiatric disability. The ADA defines a psychiatric disability as any mental or emotional impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, such as learning, thinking, concentrating, interacting with others, caring for oneself, or speaking. Examples of psychiatric disabilities include major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia. Under the regulations of the ADA, an employer may not ask questions on a job application or in an interview about a person's psychiatric disability, unless an offer of employment has already been made. Furthermore, employers must keep all information concerning the medical condition or history of its applicants' or employees' psychiatric disabilities confidential. This includes medical information that an individual voluntarily tells his or her employer. An employer is also responsible for providing a reasonable accommodation to the known mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability. These accommodations can involve changes to workplace policies, procedures, or practices.
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