The ADA and Mental Impairment

source: EEOC Notice No. 915.002 (pdf)

On March 27, 1997, the EEOC issued guidelines concerning mental and psychiatric disabilities under the ADA. The guidelines list what is and is not considered an impairment.

The Guidelines also list major life activities and require employers to determine if a mental impairment substantially limits one of these activities. The guidelines discuss the effects of medication as well as the effects of not taking medication that would help the impairment if taken correctly.

Finally, the guidelines consider appropriate ways in which an employer may take disciplinary action against a person with a psychiatric disability without violating the ADA.

The table below summarizes some of the keey points in the document:

What Are Mental Impairments?

  • Any mental, emotional, or psychological disorder
  • Major depression
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Anxiety disorders (e.g., obsessive compulsive disorders, panic disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorders

What Are Not Mental Impairments

  • Various sexual behaviors
  • Compulsive gambling
  • Kleptomania
  • Pyromania Psychoactive substance abuse disorders resulting from the current illegal use of drugs Certain behavioral traits(e.g., irritability, chronic lateness, and poor judgment)

What Major Life Activities Are Affected By Mental Impairment

  • Learning
  • Thinking
  • Concentrating
  • Interacting with others
  • Caring for oneself
  • Speaking
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Sleeping
  • Working

Employee Discipline

An employer may take disciplinary action against an employee with a psychiatric disability "provided that the workplace conduct standard is job-related for the position in question and is consistent with business necessity."