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Is PTSD a protected disability?


If you are one of the estimated 8 million adult Americans suffering from PTSD, i.e., Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, you know that your symptoms can appear at virtually any moment. At work, your PTSD symptoms may cause you memory problems, concentration problems or make it impossible for you to have and maintain good interactions with your coworkers.

The National Law Review reports that, in 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders recognized PTSD as the complex reaction many people who have undergone a traumatic experience experience. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 likewise includes PTSD among its protected disabilities.

PTSD workplace accommodations

As a protected disability, your employer must make reasonable accommodations for your PTSD. Unlike with many physical disabilities, however, accommodations for PTSD should align with each individual’s needs. For instance, they may be one or more of the following:

  • For stress or emotional symptoms, your employer could allow you to bring your service animal to work, assign you a mentor, give you a flexible work schedule, steer you to EAP assistance, etc.
  • For concentration issues, (s)he could reduce your distractions via such things as providing you with a noise-cancelling headset, a white noise sound device, different lighting, etc.
  • For memory issues, (s)he could provide you with both written and verbal instructions, a wall calendar, an electronic organizer, etc.
  • For time management issues, (s)he could provide you with a daily to-do list and frequent meetings with your mentor or supervisor to review your production.
  • For coworker interaction issues, (s)he could allow you to work from home at least part time, give you the greatest privacy possible at work, provide disability awareness training to your supervisors, etc.

While your PTSD represents a serious condition, a few reasonable accommodations can help you successfully manage it in the workplace.

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