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When workers suffer from postpartum depression

A significant number of women suffer form some form of postpartum depression or anxiety after they give birth. As the body’s hormone levels surge and consequently strive to adjust to those surges, women can suffer from mood swings, uncharacteristic thought patterns and feeling truly blue. In fact, milder forms of postpartum depression are often referred to as “The Baby Blues.” Most women can successfully weather this milder form of depression for the few weeks that it tends to stick around.

However, more significant postpartum depression can be potentially debilitating. This condition can certainly be considered a disability, but many employers do not perceive it as such. We frequently write about the protections the law affords female workers in regards to pregnancy discrimination. Thankfully, the Americans with Disabilities Act may also protect women from certain forms of discrimination related to their postpartum depression.

Essentially, the ADA protects workers from discrimination related to either permanent or temporary disabilities which affect major life activity. In some cases, depression can be considered a disability, depending on how it affects the worker’s life. This is true “even” if the worker is suffering from temporary postpartum depression and not prolonged clinical depression.

It is also worth noting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed a claim for wrongful termination against an employer who dismissed a worker struggling with postpartum depression. This case illustrates that this area of law is evolving and that one of the highest federal authorities related to workers’ rights is invested in the subject. If you have questions about how the law may affect your particular postpartum circumstances, please contact an attorney experienced in matters of employment law who can guide you through your options.

Source: The Huffington Post, "How to Protect Yourself in the Workplace if You're Suffering From Postpartum Depression," Tom Spiggle, July 24, 2014

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