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Working to end workplace disability discrimination

Nearly one-fifth of all American adults, including many in Los Angeles County, deal with mental health issues in a given year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 43.8 million Americans are diagnosed with mental illnesses. There are a number of conditions that people frequently confront, including depression, anxiety or PTSD. There are also a number of mood disorders and other concerns that may arise. Some mental illnesses arise organically while others are impacted by environmental stresses like the loss of a job, a divorce or the death of a loved one.

In any case, people with mental health concerns can face a real threat of discrimination while on the job. In many cases, psychiatric disabilities are stigmatized or dismissed. People with mental illness may also be subjected to bullying or workplace harassment. However, people with disabilities -- including those related to mental health -- have rights in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against people due to their disabling conditions. Disability discrimination is prohibited in hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, job training and other employment-related matters.

The law against disability discrimination applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. These employers are required to grant reasonable accommodations when workers with disabilities can still perform the essential functions of their jobs. For example, a worker may be allowed to schedule their shifts differently, have access to a quiet workspace or receive written rather than verbal instructions. Some people could receive permission to work from home instead of in the office.

Someone who has been subject to employment discrimination because of their mental health concerns or other disabilities can take action to protect their rights. An employment lawyer can help a worker file a complaint and pursue compensation for lost wages, back pay and other damages.

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