You may often associate disability as that which affects the body, such as deafness or paralysis. However, disability also encompasses mental disorders and impairments. Therefore, discrimination laws protect those with mental disabilities as well.
Protecting yourself from discrimination begins with knowing the law, understanding your rights and speaking with an attorney.
California law states that a mental condition qualifies as a disability if it affects your ability to fulfill one or more major life activities. Examples of such limitations include:
- Being unable to take care of yourself independently
- Experiencing challenges with learning and comprehending things
- Having difficulty with speaking
Types of mental disabilities that meet legal requirements are intellectual development disorders, learning disabilities, and severe depression or anxiety. Types that do not qualify are neurotic compulsions, substance abuse and other addictions, and disorders dealing with sexual behaviors (such as exhibitionism).
Protections against discrimination
Discriminatory behavior can occur from the beginning of the application process to the termination of your employment. When in an interview, potential employers can only ask you questions about your ability to perform the duties of the job, not about your disability. You do not even have to disclose your mental disability unless doing so will help you to obtain necessary accommodations.
Once on the job, you should receive fair and respectful treatment from supervisors, coworkers and customers. Any type of harassment is illegal. If you have great performance reviews, you should be just as eligible to earn promotions, raises and other benefits as anyone else. Your employer cannot fire you because of your mental disability.
You do not have to wait until discrimination happens to seek legal assistance. Talking to an employment discrimination lawyer from the start can help prevent discriminatory behavior from occurring at all. It can also help to know your rights so you can recognize and know how to handle discrimination.