What is Mental Illness Discrimination?

There are several ways mental illness discrimination can occur in the workplace, both indirectly and directly. If you are an employee with a mental health condition, you must understand your rights under Ohio and federal law. 

While there are legal protections for workers dealing with mental illness, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits companies with 15 or more workers from denying applicants job opportunities if they have such a condition. 

Protections Against Mental Illness Discrimination at Work 

The ADA provides specific protections if you are currently being discriminated against because you have a mental health condition. Your employer cannot request mental illness information on applications or during interviews for those seeking work. However, once hired, there is some medical information you might need to share in specific situations according to the ADA. This can include:

  • Requesting reasonable accommodation for a disability
  •  Sharing  information about your health when a job offer is made
  • Providing evidence that your condition will prevent you from completing your job duties

Employers are required under the ADA to make accommodations for employees with mental health conditions or other disabilities. However, the request must be reasonable and not cause an undue burden for the company. 

What Constitutes an Undue Burden on an Accommodation Request?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides guidance for both employees and employers on what would be considered an unreasonable accommodation request for someone with a mental health condition or other disability. Specifically, the below factors would be taken into account to make this determination:

  • The expense and nature of the requested accommodation
  • How the accommodation will impact operations of the workplace.
  • The financial resources of the company, including the size of the employee’s facility and operational expenses
  • The type of operation the employee works in, including workforce functions and the relationship of the facility with the company’s administration

While the purpose of determining undue hardship on an employer is to prevent unreasonable accommodations from being made, it also sets a high bar for doing so. Speaking with a knowledgeable Ohio employment law attorney can prove helpful in gaining a better understanding of how your request may or may not be reasonable under EEO guidelines.

Understanding How Mental Illness Discrimination Happens Directly and Indirectly 

As you already know, discrimination, especially against those with mental illness disabilities, can appear in numerous ways. In some cases, the discrimination is direct.  In other instances, the discrimination is indirect. Below is a brief overview of each method of discriminatory action:


Direct discrimination occurs when an employer, supervisor, or manager treats workers with mental illness unfavorably because of their condition. This can happen with or without intention, but the damage caused to the employee is still done. For example, if you applied for a promotion and your boss chose someone else because of the belief your mental health issue would interfere with your handling the added pressure of the new role.


When you are indirectly discriminated against, this means that you believe a supervisor or other managing employee was discriminatory towards you, but you have no direct evidence. These instances could be related to a job ad looking for candidates with the ability to lift 75 pounds despite the position not requiring any heavy lifting. This discrimination could also result from a company policy that only applies to all workers but would negatively impact those with mental illness disabilities.

Don’t Let Your Employer Use Your Mental Health to Hold You Back

Your mental illness doesn’t prevent you from performing your job. Unfortunately, Ohio employers who discriminate against those with any disability don’t realize this and focus on misconceptions when making adverse decisions or taking discriminatory actions against this group of workers. If you are directly or indirectly discriminated against because of your mental health condition, reach out to a qualified employee rights attorney right away. 

Attorney James J. Hux of Hux Law Firm has years of experience providing skillful legal representation to those in your position. His in-depth understanding of complicated employment protection law will help assess the validity of your discrimination claim and determine what course of action is best for your situation. Contact his office today to schedule a free consultation.