HR Question: Anxiety and Depression as Disabilities

Question: Are depression and anxiety considered disabilities?

Answer: They can be, yes. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

Some examples of major life activities are caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, eating, sleeping, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, such as neurological, brain, and respiratory functions.

Although the condition must “substantially limit” a major life activity, this term is broader than you might think. “Substantially limits” doesn’t mean that the condition has to prevent or significantly restrict a major life activity. Rather, the comparison is between the employee’s level of functioning as compared to most people in the general population. It is not a demanding standard. 

If an employee informs you that they have anxiety or depression and requests an accommodation, you should begin the interactive process. Basically, you and the employee determine what, if anything, can be done to accommodate them so that they can perform the essential functions of their job and have equal benefits and privileges of employment. As part of this conversation, you may require the employee to provide documentation to support their request for an accommodation.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

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