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Are you afraid to disclose your mental illness to an employer?

You and many other California residents may live with mental illness. While you may not want your illness to define you, you know that other people may consider it your defining characteristic in some cases. Often, this happens because others lack the knowledge of what it is like to live with your condition and of the steps you take to manage it.

You know that you can live life much like anyone else, though you may need certain accommodations from time to time. Unfortunately, due to continued stigma surrounding various mental illnesses and the misconceptions many people believe, you often worry that you will receive different or even unfair treatment from those around you. When it comes to your employment, you find this a particular concern.

Do you have to tell your employer about your condition?

While it is not strictly required by law to disclose your mental illness to your employer or a prospective employer, you may want to do so sooner rather than later if you anticipate your condition having an effect on your work. This does not necessarily mean that you expect your condition to hinder your abilities to perform work duties, but you may need to request a reasonable accommodation from your employer or may need to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act at some point.

An understandable worry about facing discrimination may come in after you disclose this information. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects you from disability-based discrimination. Additionally, if you request an accommodation that will not cause any undue hardship on your employer or business operations, the law requires your employer to accept your request.

Is the law foolproof?

You may already know that the protections of the law do not always prevent employers from acting illegally. In fact, you may have faced unfair treatment at a previous position due to your mental illness or know people who have. Still, it is important to remember that, if you do face discriminatory actions from your employer or if your employer refuses to meet a reasonable accommodation, you do not have to accept those actions. 

If filing a complaint with the human resources department or other appropriate party within the company does not have the desired results, you do not have to stop there. You have legal rights and options for holding those who violate the law accountable for their actions, including filing a legal claim.

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