What do we do when an employee shares they are diagnosed with depression?

March 4, 2014
Q: One of my employees has been spoken to about his diminished job performance. The employee opened up and stated the change in work output is due to a diagnosis of depression. We have given the employee a week off; can we obligate the employee to take a medical leave of absence?A: If your organization has more than fifteen employees, the provisions of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will apply to your organization. Depression is generally considered a disability under the ADA. Unless the employee requests additional medical leave, the organization is not permitted to force an employee with a disability to take medical leave. However, if his or her doctor certifies the need for additional medical leave, we recommend granting it as long as it is reasonable in duration.

The organization is required to work with the employee to accommodate the disability, as long as doing so does not create an undue hardship for the employer. You are still permitted to hold the employee to the same performance standards as other similarly situated employees.

The next step is to require medical certification to verify the disability and to get the employee’s treating physician’s perspective as to what type of workplace accommodations he/she may need. Upon receipt of the physician’s completed medical certification for workplace accommodations, the employee should be provided with any reasonable workplace accommodations in an effort to assist him/her in meeting the performance standards and expectations of his/her job.

Whereas this is not an all-inclusive list, the following are suggestions for common accommodations for depressive or anxiety disorders. At times, a short period of accommodation is all that is required while an employee adjusts to prescribed medication treating the condition.

•             Time off to attend counseling sessions
•             A move to a private office instead of an open work space
•             Weekly meetings with the manager to get more frequent feedback