Depression is an illness that involves feelings of sadness lasting for two weeks or longer, often accompanied by a loss of interest in life, hopelessness, and decreased energy. Such distressing feelings can affect one's ability to perform the usual tasks and activities of daily living. This is considered to be clinical depression. It is very different from a temporary case of "the blues" triggered by an unhappy event or stressful situation. Depression affects the mind, but this does not mean "it's all in your head."
Depression is a medical illness linked to changes in the biochemistry of the brain. Depression is not a weakness of character. Being depressed does not mean a person is inadequate. It means the person has a medical illness that is just as real as diabetes or ulcers. Like other medical disorders, clinical depression should not be ignored or dismissed. A clinically depressed person cannot simply "snap out of it" any more than a person with an ulcer could simply will it away.
Depression and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Situations and Solutions:
An employee with major depression and bipolar disorder was having difficulties working in a busy central banking office.
He needed to manage a large staff of workers, provide customer service, and oversee the daily office management. As an accommodation he requested and received a transfer to a smaller and less busy branch office. The employee maintained his salary and the responsibilities of his leadership role.
A county employee who works in the property records room has bouts of depression that are intensified when he is busy, under deadlines, and has frequent interruptions.
He then finds it difficult to concentrate and get his work completed. The employer rescheduled a part-time worker to help during the busy times, allowing the employee to go to a specified desk behind a partition where he could concentrate more fully on the records he was responsible for.
An employer, trying to accommodate an employee returning to work after a leave, had questions about the stress of required travel that escalated the employee’s depression and anxiety.
The employer was advised to continue on in the interactive process to discover what specifically about the travel was stressful so they could determine accommodations for those identified issues. Examples of questions to ask could include what particularly about the travel causes the stress that heightens the depression, such as the length of the travel, the distance, the planning process, or even specific modes of travel and/or locations.
An employee voluntarily admitted herself to a hospital inpatient unit due to severe depression.
Her mother called the employer to let them know what had happened and to tell them her return date was uncertain at that time. The employer provided leave under the ADA for the employee and requested her mother to keep them informed about the employee’s progress and possible return to work date.
A grocery store bagger with seasonable affective disorder (SAD) had difficulty working an early schedule due to oversleeping.
She also experienced fatigue and depression during late fall and winter months. She was accommodated with an afternoon schedule and was moved to the front of the store, which had windows that let sunlight enter her workspace.
An electrician with severe depression needed to attend periodic licensure trainings.
The person had difficulty taking effective notes and paying attention in the meetings. The individual was accommodated with notes from remote Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) service.
JAN Publications & Articles Regarding Depression
Consultants' Corner Articles
- A Support Person as an Accommodation
- Accommodations Related to Commuting To and From Work
- Confidentiality of Medical Information under the ADA
- Dealing with Stress in the Workplace
- Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace: A Practical Approach
- Hidden Disabilities: Confidentiality and Travel
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Service Animals and Allergies in the Workplace
- Service Animals in the Workplace
- No Articles available for Depression
- Common Questions about Providing Equipment as an Accommodation
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — Only In the Winter? Not Always the Case
- Avoiding “The Waiting Place” After Requesting Medical Information
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — More than Gray Skies in Winter
- Mental Health Awareness – Creating a More Inclusive Workplace
- “But you don’t look sick…”