Phillips & Associates

What are Reasonable Accommodations for Anxiety?

Reasonable accommodations for anxiety can include remote work, a support animal, a rest area, a modified break schedule, a flexible schedule, and shifts in schedule. The type of anxiety you have, your limitations, and your employer’s resources will determine what accommodation is appropriate. Anxiety disorders include acute stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder because of a general medical condition, substance-triggered anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, agoraphobia, social phobia, and other phobias. Whether you may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation for anxiety depends on the situation. If you are concerned with getting reasonable accommodations for anxiety, you should discuss your situation with an experienced New York City disability discrimination lawyer.

Reasonable Accommodations for Anxiety Under Federal Law

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides that qualified workers with disabling anxiety disorders should be granted accommodations to manage their anxiety disorder if: (1) their anxiety is disabling as defined by the ADA and (2) it would not present an undue hardship to provide the reasonable accommodation. Your employer must have a minimum of 15 employees to be covered under this law.

The ADA defines anxiety as a disorder when it can be shown it is a physical or mental impairment that substantially restricts your major life activity or a major bodily function. Even when your anxiety is mostly controlled by treatment and medication, it will qualify as a disability under the ADA if it is disabling when it is active. However, our trial attorneys will need to show anxiety substantially restricts your major life activity or major bodily function. If it meets the ADA definition and imposes significant limits on your activities, and your employer is covered by the ADA, we should be able to fight for you to obtain a reasonable accommodation under federal law, unless the proposed accommodation to address your anxiety presents an undue hardship for your specific employer.

The New York State Human Rights Law provides your employer should provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability no matter how small of an employer it is. You need to be otherwise capable to do the job; you need to have the skill, experience, education, and talents. You must be able to reasonably perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodations for your anxiety.

The New York City Human Rights Law is one of the most liberal civil rights laws in the country. You should be able to obtain a reasonable accommodation for your anxiety if it constitutes a psychological, mental, medical or physical impairment or you have a record of this kind of impairment from anxiety.

What Kinds of Accommodations Will the Court Find Reasonable?

Reasonable accommodations for anxiety in a New York City workplace may include:

  • Alterations to your job or workplace to allow you to perform essential job functions
  • Changes in supervisory style
  • Providing vital functions of your job
  • Minimizing distractions
  • Giving assignments in a specific way
  • Flexible schedule
  • Modified break schedule
  • Rest area/private space
  • Support animal

There are many ways these accommodations might materialize in your specific situation. It can help to be treated by a medical provider who has other patients with anxiety disorders that need to be accommodated in the workplace. An experienced, credible psychiatrist may have good ideas about what kinds of accommodations are appropriate for those workers who have your specific symptoms and diagnosis of anxiety. In a doctor’s note, your psychiatrist may be able to lay out for your employer the nature of your limitations. She may be able to provide a professional opinion about what restrictions you have and possibilities for how to respond to those restrictions. For instance, if you are anxious:

  • You may need to have a fidget device as an accommodation. Your employer may be able to alter its policies so you can use the fidget device at work.
  • You may need to have an application on your phone to stay on track. If your employer prohibits devices as a general policy, it may need to shift this policy to accommodate you, if it wouldn’t present an undue hardship to do so.
  • In some cases, anxiety is reduced through an environmental sound machine; your employer may be able to provide an accommodation by allowing you to have one at your desk.
  • Similarly, you may need noise-canceling earbuds that allow you to focus.
  • When social anxiety is severe, it may be appropriate to request remote work so you can better control your anxiety.

As another example, if you have severe anxiety around public speaking, you may need advance notice from your supervisor to prepare presentations. If you have a panic disorder triggered by a fast pace environment or unexpected changes, you might need your manager to provide you with written assignments and minimize alterations to your schedule or work.

One tricky issue that may come up is a supervisory style that causes anxiety. In some cases, alterations to supervision style and tactics can be an effective reasonable accommodation for mental disabilities. However, you may have problems with a particular supervisor who seems unable to change his or her style.

Interactive Process

The ADA, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law don’t provide you with the right to dictate the workplace. However, our lawyers can argue you are entitled to an effective reasonable accommodation, even if it’s not necessarily the specific accommodation you’d prefer. Your employer should engage with you in conversation to figure out how to accommodate your anxiety. The parameters of that conversation will depend partly on the applicable laws. Generally, it is a little more straightforward to obtain an accommodation under state or local laws because their definitions and standards are more generous to workers than federal law.

Talk to Our Seasoned Trial Lawyers About Your Employer’s Failure to Accommodate You

Your New York City employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for anxiety may be actionable discrimination. Our legal team will need to examine your situation to determine what an appropriate accommodation would be. Phillips & Associates is a law firm with a record of success. We represent disabled workers on a contingency fee basis in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Nassau County or Suffolk County. Call us at (212) 248-7431 or complete our online form.

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