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Can my employer fire me for disclosing my mental illness?

Many employers create a work environment where all employees feel welcomed and protected. Unfortunately, there are still companies out there who openly or secretly discriminate against employees for many reasons.

While employers can fire you at-will in California, there are guidelines they still need to follow. Employers must abide by the rules of protected classes. Protected classes serve to ensure that employers can’t illegally terminate employees on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or medical conditions.

Are mental illnesses protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

A medical diagnosis may be needed for individuals with mental health conditions to be considered in the protected classes. If a person’s mental health condition become so severe that it interferes with their daily life, including work, then they may classify as having a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act protect individuals with disabilities.

This act became law in 1990. It protected people with disabilities in the public and private sphere to avoid any type of discrimination. It worked to ensure equal opportunities for all. In 2008, this act amended to become the American with Disabilities Amendment Acts, which made huge changes in the workforce, both public and private.

Private work forces with 15 or more employees had to adhere to the act’s new policies for people with disabilities. The changes also applied to government sectors, labor unions, employment agencies, etc. Private sectors considered as public entities also had to follow the new rules of non-discrimination and equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

How does the Americans with Disabilities Act help workers?

Employees are at an advantage if they disclose their mental health status with their employer. After you’ve discussed your condition with your employer, they may need to make accommodations for you. This could be providing you with your own work space to boost productivity, offer you altered work schedules, provide you with different supervisory methods that are efficient for you and different work assignments, etc.

Depending on your personal situation and your work environment, you could retain the right to keep your condition private. However, understanding more about illegal terminations in your state could help to put you one step ahead if you believe you were wrongfully terminated.

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