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Mental health and workplace discrimination in California

Both California and federal regulations protect employees from various forms of discrimination and unfair practices in the workplace, including those based on race, religion, gender, age and disability. When many individuals think about disabilities, they may envision physical impairments.  However, the law also shields those with mental health disabilities from discriminatory behaviors.

The prevention of prejudiced employment practices

Coworkers and employers may not harass mentally disabled workers. Employers may not fire individuals with a disability relating to mental health solely because of that disability. They also may not deny them a promotion or force them to take leave because of their mental health issues.

However, if conditions such as depression or anxiety, for instance, make it impossible for workers to perform their necessary job duties, they may legally be terminated. The employer would need to be able to show that the termination was due to the worker’s inability to do the job, and not due to the worker’s mental illness itself.

The provision of necessary accommodations

If workers need reasonable accommodations to perform their jobs, employers must provide them. Examples include allowing flexible scheduling around therapy sessions, allowing the wearing of noise-canceling headphones to simulate a quiet environment, or allowing the usage of stimulatory tools. Employees need to request the necessary accommodations as soon as possible. If they do not, and their job performance suffers as a result, the employer has the right to give them a poor review or even fire them.

Mental health is a serious issue that affects many individuals, including a significant portion of the workforce. The law protects these workers from discrimination on the basis of their disabilities.


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