May is Mental Health Awareness Month! In 2020, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated nearly 53 million adults in the US had some type of mental illness, with 1 in 5 adults reporting that the pandemic had a significant impact on their mental health. The ADA National Network estimates that 18% of workers in the US have a mental health condition. It is likely there is someone in your workplace that lives with a mental illness. Some of these people may identify as an Individual with a Disability, or IWD. Federal contractors have obligations for all Individuals with Disabilities, both physical and mental.
Federal contractors covered under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended) are required to take affirmative action to employ individuals with disabilities and prohibited from making employment decisions based on disability status. Covered contractors must also review the mental and physical job qualifications and make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of employees and qualified applicants. Finally, contractors must maintain a record of the steps taken to comply with these directives.
Contractors should assess external outreach and recruitment efforts annually to determine the effectiveness of those sources, including the criteria used to evaluate and the contractor’s conclusion of efficacy. External outreach and recruiting effort assessments and analyses must be maintained for three years. Berkshire has a webinar dedicated to Effectively Evaluating Outreach towards Individuals with a Disability.
What are some reasonable accommodations an individual with a mental illness might request? Some requests might include flexible or alternate scheduling, specific equipment or adjustments to light and noise levels, changes to communication methods, modification of job duties or additional training, or even a coach or mentor. To maintain compliance with the written portion of the AAP, contractors should present a Reasonable Accommodation Policy, a record of all accommodation requests, the outcome and who made the decision. For an in-depth discussion on accommodation requests, register to watch the recording of our Accommodations 101 Webinar.
Employers typically review mental and physical job qualifications only when an accommodation request is made. Establishing a scheduled, periodic review of job qualifications, and maintaining a record of when decisions were made and who made them, will help contractors comply with this portion of the written component of the AAP. When reviewing mental and physical job qualifications, remember to review job descriptions as well as job postings and ads! Berkshire has a webinar on Conducting a Mental and Physical Job Qualification Review.
Additionally the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), recently announced a public education campaign to promote mental health-friendly workplaces.
Reach out to your Berkshire consultant for additional resources on how to track your outreach and recruitment efforts, reasonable accommodation requests, and reviews of mental and physical job requirements.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP21-07-01-003, NSDUH Series H-56). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/