Lawsuits Involving Employee Mental Health Discrimination

Employer awareness of mental health discrimination

Lawsuits involving employee mental health discrimination are on the rise and have been since 2018, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 2020, the  EEOC ranked anxiety claims third and depression claims fourth based on the total number of Americans with Disabilities (ADA) claims filed.

With the rising number of claims, it is important to have sound legal practices in place for employers to protect their businesses and to prevent mental health discrimination lawsuits.

Specific Claims Involving Mental Disability

The EEOC filed a complaint in December 2021 on behalf of a chief financial officer’s former employer, Ranew’s Management Co. The claim alleged that the company terminated him based on his mental disability. Allegedly, the CFO suffered from major, severe and recurring depression. His mental health state caused suicidal thoughts and mental disability that harmed his ability to sleep, concentrate, think and work. He informed his employer about his need to take off time from work to receive treatment. After cleared by his doctor to return to work, his employer fired him.

Another case recently involved a U.S. district judge in the Southern District of New York. The judge evaluated the same issue in the Zuckerman case. The judge dismissed the employee’s claim, which stated that her anxiety disorder resulted in termination. The judge ruled that the claimant failed to show she in fact had a mental disability. The court noted, “difficulties with sleep and concentration are widespread.” The judge also stated that “many employees are anxious when interacting with their bosses and that many people find certain social settings to be stressful and awkward.”

Findings vary based on whether claimants have provided facts that support the generalized anxiety disorder as limiting a major life activity. Otherwise, employees do not qualify for a mental health discrimination claim under the ADA.

(Reference: JD Supra)

As an employer, do you need legal assistance to deal with mental health discrimination issues?

If you’re a company owner and have questions or concerns about mental health discrimination claims or other employment matters occurring in your workplace, an experienced employment law defense attorney can help. Whenever possible, it is wise to do so before legal issues arise. Call (718) 275-6500 to arrange an appointment with Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C.