New diagnostic guidelines may lead to ADA requests

As we often discuss in this blog, employers here in Wisconsin are required to make certain accommodations for employees with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must provide changes to a workplace or role–reasonable accommodations–in order to allow workers with disabilities to perform their jobs. Examples of such accommodations include modifying equipment, such as adding computer screen magnifiers or adjusting desk height, and adjusting schedules, among other things.

The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to those with physical, mental or intellectual disabilities. Some employers believe that the number of requests for accommodations for mental disabilities may soon rise because of new standards for diagnosing psychiatric conditions.

Last month, a revised edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-V, was released. It has been reported that the new edition may result in an increase in diagnoses for post-traumatic stress disorder as well as social communication disorder.

This is because as doctors become better able to diagnose mental conditions, employees may then learn about their right to request accommodations based on their diagnoses.

It is important to note that the the Americans with Disabilities Act is not expressly linked to the DSM-V. The ADA defines disability as any physical or mental condition that significantly limits a life function. The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees, requiring them to offer reasonable accommodations to those workers who cannot engage in a work activity due to a physical or mental disability.

Workers who have been denied reasonable accommodations by their employers may benefit from discussing the situation with an employment law attorney.

Source: The Washington Times, “Discrimination suits for disabilities could rise with new list of psychiatric disorders,” Luke Rosiak, May 19, 2013

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