Discrimination: Mental Health Issues
Discrimination: Mental Health Issues
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Has Amazon discriminated against you because of your mental illness?
Do you feel you’ve been the victim of discrimination at Amazon because of your mental illness?
Or has working at Amazon caused your mental health to worsen?
If so, here’s what you need to know.
How many workers have mental illnesses?
According to the ADA National Network, mental illness is very common:
about 44 million adults (over age 18) in the U.S. report having had any mental health condition during the past year, representing about 18.5% of the U.S. population.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that:
• 18% have an anxiety disorder (including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder)
• 9.5% have depression
• 4% have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
• 2.6% have bipolar disorder
• 1% have schizophrenia
What is a disability?
Does your mental illness qualify as a “disability”? Be aware that not every physical or medical condition counts as a disability under the law.
According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a person can show that he or she has a disability in one of three ways:
• A person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning, or operation of a major bodily function).
• A person has a disability if he or she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is in remission or a history of psychiatric disability).
• A person has a disability if he or she is subject to an adverse employment action and is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he or she does not have such an impairment).
What is disability discrimination?
As the EEOC explains,
Disability discrimination occurs when an employer or other entity covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, treats a qualified individual who is an employee or applicant unfavorably because he or she has a disability.
Disability discrimination also occurs when a covered employer or other entity treats an applicant or employee less favorably because he or she has a history of a disability (such as a past major depressive episode) or because he or she is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he or she does not have such an impairment).
The Americans with Disabilities Act
As the US Department of Labor explains,
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services. As it relates to employment, Title I of the ADA protects the rights of both employees and job seekers.
Both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in relation to:
• job assignments
• any other term or condition of employment
Does a disabled person have special workplace rights?
The law requires employers to provide disabled employees with “reasonable accommodations,” unless doing so would cause significant expense or difficulty for the employer (“undue hardship”).
Reasonable accommodations can include things like:
• providing a ramp for a wheelchair user
• providing an interpreter for a deaf employee
• job restructuring
• acquiring or modifying equipment
According to the EEOC,
Undue hardship means that the accommodation would be too difficult or too expensive to provide, in light of the employer’s size, financial resources, and the needs of the business. An employer may not refuse to provide an accommodation just because it involves some cost. An employer does not have to provide the exact accommodation the employee or job applicant wants. If more than one accommodation works, the employer may choose which one to provide.
Reasonable Accommodations for Mental Illness
As the ADA National Network explains, accommodations for mental illness can include:
· Concentration or distraction issues: More frequent reminders of tasks and due dates; a quieter work environment; more frequent short breaks; work from home (if this doesn’t cause undue hardship to the employer).
· Managing treatment and medication: Flexible schedule to allow for appointments; more frequent breaks for medication; allow for use of water bottle during worktimes; part-time schedule until medication plan stabilizes.
· Anxiety: Use of white noise ear phones; attend meetings remotely; work from home part-or full- time; exchange non-essential job tasks with another employee; change in management style of supervisor.
Can you be asked about your disability during a job interview?
The law limits interview questions related to disabilities. As the EEOC explains,
an employer may not ask a job applicant to answer disability-related questions or take a medical exam before extending a job offer. An employer also may not ask job applicants if they have a disability (or about the nature of an obvious disability). An employer may ask job applicants whether they can perform the job and how they would perform the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.
After an applicant is offered a job, the employer may condition the offer on the applicant answering disability-related questions or passing a medical exam, but only if all employees considered for the same type of job must answer the questions or have the exam.
Disability Discrimination and Harassment
As the EEOC notes,
It is illegal to harass an applicant or employee because he or she has a disability, had a disability in the past, or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he or she does not have such an impairment).
Harassment can include offensive comments about a person’s disability. However, says the EEOC,
Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
Disability Discrimination at Amazon
As hg.com reported, an Amazon worker with a prescription for medical marijuana for anxiety and panic disorder was fired after taking a drug test and sued for disability discrimination.
Amazon workplaces have been described as “toxic.” According to Yahoo! Finance,
In a new investigative report, reporters from the Daily Beast found that over a period of five years, 189 emergency calls were made from 46 Amazon warehouse sites for employee mental health episodes — many of which were suicide-related.
The New York Times called Amazon’s workplace “brutal.”
Working in an environment where people are under severe physical or mental stress or feel they are being discriminated against can lead to mental health issues.
As Vox reported,
The employees Recode interviewed said the racial bias they encountered at Amazon affected them in a multitude of meaningful ways: Four of the Black women who spoke to Recode said they sought mental health counseling while at Amazon, either solely or in large part because of their experience working at the company.
What can you do if you experienced mental health discrimination at Amazon?
What if working at Amazon caused or worsened your mental health problems?
If you’ve experienced discrimination or a mental or physical injury at Amazon, call attorney Cj Rosenbaum at 212-256-1109, text 212-256-8492, or email CJ@AmazonSellersLawyer.com. You can also submit a summary of your situation online .
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