Previously, we began looking at the issue of workplace accommodations for employees with mental illnesses. As we pointed out, federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons, including those with mental illnesses.
Workplace accommodations are required not only under federal law, but also under state law. In Wisconsin, the Fair Employment Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in all areas of employment and protects both employees who have a diagnosed mental illness and those who are perceived as having a mental illness.
It also requires employers to provide accommodation to employees with mental illnesses. As we noted last time, though, the duty to accommodate is not unlimited. According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, employers are not required to accommodate disabled employees when doing so would be a hardship for the business. A hardship can be logistical or financial in nature, but is judged according to the size and resources of business. Undue expense, disruption, or alteration of the nature of the business can all constitute a hardship.
For employers, it is important not only to ensure that legitimate workplace accommodations are being made for employees entitled to them, but also that the business knows how to manage employees who are not able to perform essential job functions with accommodations and that the business is able to defend itself when it refuses to make accommodations that would result in hardship. Keeping a close eye on such matters requires a proactive approach and solid legal advice and guidance.