COVID-19: The ADA and Workers with Mental Disabilities.

By Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

America is reopening as states and cities are lifting stay at home orders. Most people are eager to get back to work, but there is stress and anxiety over increased COVID-19 exposure. COVID-19 is causing a global mental health crisis.

Some workers suffer from a mental disability that will be exacerbated by returning to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), workers with a mental disability may qualify for a reasonable accommodation.

The ADA applies to non-federal government workers who have a qualifying mental disability. Under the ADA, workers with a mental disability have the right to request a reasonable accommodation from their employer. The employer is legally obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation provided doing so does not cause an undue hardship for the employer. For instance, a worker whose mental disability is exacerbated by COVID-19 exposure at work might request telework as a reasonable accommodation. If telework is not an option, the employer may provide other reasonable accommodations, such as:

  1. temporary job restructuring of marginal job duties
  2. temporary transfers to a different position
  3. modifying a work schedule or shift assignments
  4. temporary changes to workload
  5. longer time to complete tasks
  6. flexible hours, later start time, more flexibility concerning attendance
  7. personal leave

Under the ADA, mental illness and disorders, such as, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder are mental disabilities that could qualify for a reasonable accommodation.

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