Accommodating mental disabilities: 3 key Q&As.

The ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate applicants and employees who have mental or physical disabilities if they are qualified to perform the job's essential functions (with or without a reasonable accommodation). That can be tricky. Consider this advice adapted from EEOC guidance and court rulings:

What if performance slips?

Q. How should we handle an employee whose performance is deteriorating and whom we suspect may have a mental disability?

A. You can inquire about an employee's potential mental disability if the inquiry is job related and consistent with business necessity. The EEOC says that means an employer can ask about possible mental disabilities when the employer has a reasonable belief that performance of essential job functions is impaired by a medical condition.

The EEOC says you must first have some objective evidence that the deteriorating performance is related to a mental condition (such as knowledge that the employee suffered from a mental impairment in the past).

Thus, a supervisor can inquire about an employee repeatedly forgetting tasks. But he cannot ask if a mental condition caused those...

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