The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and OCD
When researching OCD and workplace law, the first concept to understand is the content of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA applies to all states of the US, and it prohibits any discrimination by employers based on an employee’s disability. Contrary to what you may think, this act applies to more than just physical disabilities; in fact, it protects employees with mental disorders such as OCD as well. The ADA does not prevent a person with OCD from ever being fired or disciplined. Instead, it requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the person who has OCD.
Reasonable Workplace Accommodations for OCD
The accommodations necessary for an employee who has OCD depend on the severity and symptoms of the disorder. For example, an employee who regularly “checks” may have extreme difficulty with tasks that involve computation or verification. These tasks can be reassigned to a different employee, while the person with OCD can take on a different task in its place. People with OCD who are on medication for their disorder may need to come to work a bit later (and work a bit later to make up the time). The employer should try to encourage the employee’s treatment plan by accommodating therapy appointments as much as possible, and may even be required to give an employee a leave of absence during an OCD-related crisis.
These workplace accommodations are by no means comprehensive. Each person with OCD has different needs, and the employee should try to accommodate those needs as much as possible. For example, an employee may require an additional file cabinet, an assigned parking space, or reserved saved seat in a conference room in order to feel more secure. If you are an employer, talk with your employee about what would make her more comfortable. If you are an employee, make a list of accommodations that would make it easier for you to deal with your disorder, and discuss the two or three most important ones with your employer.
Should I Disclose My OCD?
In order to receive the ADA accommodations, you must disclose your OCD diagnosis to your employer. You do not, however, need to disclose your diagnosis to any of your coworkers. The decision about whether to share this information depends on the specifics of the job. For example, if you require minimal accommodations, or if these accommodations (as well as your compulsions) can be kept private, you may want to consider keeping your OCD private as well. If you think that your coworkers would be more understanding if you shared this information with them, you could do so; if you think that they would discriminate against you because of your OCD, you have every right to keep it private and to expect that your employer does the same.
If, however, you are receiving multiple accommodations that can be easily seen by your coworkers, you should probably consider disclosing your OCD diagnosis to any coworker that may be jealous or frustrated by your accommodations. This will allow your coworkers to see that your employer is simply following workplace law, and OCD-related accommodations are completely necessary.
This post is part of the series: OCD in the Workplace
This series of articles contains information about the legal aspects of OCD, as well as tips for people with OCD int he workplace, their employers, and their coworkers.