Work-Related Stress and the Americans with Disabilities Act
With increasing frequency employees are claiming disabilities based on work-related stress. Some employees are asking for accommodations such as transfers to new supervisors, working from home, additional leave, and alternative jobs. These requests may require an employer to make a determination of whether the employee has a disability and potential accommodations for the alleged disability.
Is Stress a Disability?
Under the broader definition of disability in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments, extreme stress may constitute a disability. Since an employer cannot know with certainty whether the condition constitutes a disability, a cautious employer should be willing to at least explore possible accommodations. If the employee’s condition is actually a disability, the employer’s obligation is to determine whether a reasonable accommodation would enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.
Considerations When Employee Claims a Stress Condition:
- If an employee raises a stress-related condition, insist on a medical explanation.
- Consider the scope and duration of limitations described by the physician to determine if the condition meets the definition of a disability.
- If the condition may be a disability, engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if he or she can perform his or her job functions with an accommodation.
- You must consider light duty or other accommodations given to employees on workers compensation or who have taken leave for illness which could determine the scope of accommodations.
- An employee does not have the right to demand any accommodation; the ultimate determination belongs to the employer.
- You generally are not required to transfer an employee to a new supervisor or allow the employee to work from home.