Should I Tell My Boss about My Depression?
Depression is a debilitating condition that can interfere with a person’s ability to do his or her job. Your employer is likely to notice when symptoms of depression interfere with your job performance. If your employer is unaware that you suffer from depression, he or she will not understand how your depression is a factor in your job performance. For this reason it is important to inform your employer about your depression.
It is also important to inform your employer about your depression, because persons with depression may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In order to qualify for protection in the workplace you must inform your employer about your condition.
Depression as a Disability
Depression is a protected condition under the ADA. This means that workers with depression are protected from discrimination in the workplace. Employers are required by law to make reasonable accommodations to allow workers with depression to perform the functions of their jobs. However you are not automatically qualified to receive protection under the ADA just because you have or think you have depression. Consider the following limitation to ADA protection:
- The ADA only applies to employers who employ 15 or more workers.
- For a worker to be covered under the ADA the condition must be known to the employer. Employers are prohibited from inquiring about a disability and may only ask the employee if he or she is capable of performing the functions of the job. If the employee fails to inform the employer of his or her depression, he or she will not be protected under the ADA.
- Employees are expected to be in treatment for their condition. The ADA protects workers with depression provided that they continue treatment, which in the case of depression usually includes antidepressant medication.
- Cases involving employees with depression who also have substance abuse issues are especially problematic. Substance abuse and addiction commonly co-occur with depression. A genuine case of addiction may be protected under the ADA as either an impairment or a disability, although proving that addiction qualifies for protection is difficult.
The crucial point regarding depression and drug abuse is that your employer must be aware of your depression. If your employer is not aware of your depression and is dissatisfied with your work performance due to depression symptoms or if he or she discovers you are misusing drug or alcohol, you will not be protected under the ADA.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
In order to qualify as depressed under the definition of the law, your depression must cause at least four of the following symptoms:
- Loss of interest in nearly all activities
- Changes in sleep patterns, sleeping either too much or too little
- Changes in appetite accompanied by changes in weight
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Decreased energy
- Pervasive feelings of guilt, regret or worthlessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hallucinations, delusions or paranoia
- Thoughts of suicide
Questions about Depression, Addiction and Employment?
If you have questions about depression, addiction and employment, please call our toll-free helpline. We are here 24 hours a day to talk with you about whether or not to talk to your boss about your depression. We are here to help you learn your rights, learn about options for ending depression and substance abuse and move forward with your life and your career.