About Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post traumatic stress disorder is a trauma-related disorder caused by an individual’s exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one or more of the following ways:
- directly experiences the traumatic event;
- witnesses the traumatic event in person;
- learns that the traumatic event occurred to a close family member or close friend (with the actual or threatened death being either violent or accidental); or
- experiences first-hand repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event (not through media, pictures, television or movies unless work-related).
The disturbance, regardless of its trigger, causes clinically significant distress or impairment in the individual's interactions and capacity to work.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 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).
Accommodating Employees with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
People with PTSD may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with PTSD will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
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:
A postal employee with PTSD requested accommodations to help him deal with recurring flashbacks.
His flashbacks were triggered by the smell of gasoline and the noise from the mail truck. The employee tried wearing a respirator to give him a clean air supply. He also tried wearing headphones to reduce the noise from the truck, but he still experienced stress and edginess. JAN suggested a position transfer as an accommodation. JAN also suggested allowing this employee to take a break when he experiences extreme anxiety and allow him to use relaxation and visualization techniques in a private space on the job.
A vocational school teacher with PTSD requested accommodations due to anxiety and flashbacks.
She taught in a building separated from the main school, and she had difficulty dealing with large classrooms of unruly students. As an accommodation, JAN suggested training the teacher on special behavior management techniques and providing administrative support for student disciplinary actions. The school also provided the teacher a two-way radio, which allowed her to contact an administrator quickly when she needed immediate assistance in her classroom.
A veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was working for state government on a team project.
The employer decided to move the team's office to the basement of a building. Once the move occurred, the veteran realized that the noises in the basement were triggering memories of explosions and causing flare ups of his PTSD. The employer did not want to move the entire team again but was able to find an office on the first floor of the same building for the veteran. The rest of the team remained in the basement, but team meetings were held upstairs.
An administrative assistant with PTSD works at a museum, which is currently under construction.
Construction workers, who were strangers, caused the employee extreme anxiety. As an accommodation, a JAN consultant suggested temporarily relocating the employee’s work space away from the construction area. The museum also developed an ID badge for construction workers and required them to sign in at their job locations.
A prison guard, recently attacked by an inmate, has PTSD and anxiety.
The prison guard was fearful of returning to the worksite, even to discuss her return-to-work options. A JAN consultant offered the following suggestions: allow the employee to bring a support person or support animal to the meeting, move the meeting to an alternative location, or allow the employee to attend the meeting via telephone.
A veteran who is now an office employee has PTSD and anxiety.
He is easily frightened when being approached unsuspectingly. This employee works in a structured cubicle environment facing his computer and cubicle walls, with his back to the cubicle entrance. He wants to be alerted when a coworker or supervisor walks into the cubicle behind him. JAN suggested using a monitor-mounted mirror, so he could see the entrance behind him. JAN also suggested placing a sensor mat at the entrance of the cubicle, which will make an audible alert when someone steps on it.
A secretary with PTSD, who had been carjacked several years earlier, experienced significant anxiety during commutes after dark.
This caused difficulty concentrating and irritability. She was accommodated with the ability to have a support animal at work and a flexible schedule with work from home during periods of minimal sunlight.
JAN Publications & Articles Regarding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Consultants' Corner Articles
- A Support Person as an Accommodation
- Accommodating Service Members and Veterans with PTSD
- 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
- Service Animals and Allergies in the Workplace
- Service Animals in the Workplace
- No Articles available for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Guest Blog – Website Addresses Addiction and Mental Health Impairments
- Common Questions about Providing Equipment as an Accommodation
- Resources for Those Affected by Trauma Related Disability and LGBTQ Workplace Supports
- Avoiding “The Waiting Place” After Requesting Medical Information
- Mental Health Awareness – Creating a More Inclusive Workplace
- “But you don’t look sick…”