Ask the ExpertCategory: QuestionsEmployee Mental Health Support/Program
hri_Admin Staff asked 3 years ago

Hypothetical Question: If an employee mentions to a supervisor that they deal with mental health issues such as depression, is the supervisor obligated to do anything other than take it into consideration and accommodate/support the employee where possible? Aside from being obligated what are some good common practices in this situation. 

1 Answers
Glenn Demby Staff answered 3 years ago

I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand the Q. Are you asking what a supervisor should do if an employee admits to having mental issues? I’ll assume so.
Yes, the employee would be entitled to accommodations to the point of undue hardship. But the accommodations process should be conducted at a management, rather than supervisor level. So, the supervisor needs to report the information to HR/management. The problem is that under privacy laws, the information is personal health information that can’t be disclosed without consent. That means the supervisor needs to ask the employee for consent. In so doing, the supervisor should make it very clear why he/she’s disclosing the info, to whom the disclosure is being made and, above all, the purposes of the disclosure, namely, to initiate the accommodations process and get the employee the appropriate help.
If the employee refuses to consent, things get tricky. My advice (which IS NOT LEGAL COUNSEL) would be for the supervisor to try and keep the info to him/herself and only report it when and if it becomes a significant safety or performance issue. The supervisor might also be in a position to prevent that from happening by remaining sensitive to the employee’s situation and taking steps to help him/her work through any work-related problems that arise.
Hope this is what you were looking for. Glenn