Publications on Employment
Groups and Organizations
In addition to the OTA report on employment and the ADA, three additional publications have recently been published which also address the subject of employment of persons with mental illnesses.
The first to be published was MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMERS IN THE WORKPLACE, a 40 page booklet published in 1992 and available for $6.95 from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, 1101 15th Street, NW, Suite 1212, Washington, DC 20005.
It offers a guide for consumers and families regarding legal protections against employment discrimination. It briefly discusses "reasonable accommodations," but does not include the useful lists of examples found in other sources.
Another publication is THE ADA AND PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS: A RESOURCE MANUAL FOR EMPLOYERS, published by the American Bar Association with the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). Itis available for $35 from the NMHA, 1021 Prince Street, Alexandria,VA 22314.
While the title indicates that the manual was written for employers, it stresses the importance of employers and employees working together for their mutual benefit. The book recommends viewing the consumer as a dynamic individual who should not only be protected by provisions that prevent or accommodate relapse, but who also should have accommodations that will allow for advancement.
Sections on prevalent illnesses, with their symptoms and treatments, were contributed and reviewed by doctors from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). These sections should be helpful to the uninitiated in developing accommodations and in removing stigma associated with mental illness.
In addition to easily read charts with examples of reasonable accommodations, the book also includes a chart of potential barriers. It adds that addressing discrimination in employment is particularly important "...because employment is key to independence and a feeling of self worth, and also because 66 percent of unemployed working age people with disabilities say that they would like to have a job."
Still another useful manual, especially for mental health consumers who are employed or seeking employment, is one published in 1993 bythe California Department of Mental Health, 1600 9th Street, Room 250, Sacramento, CA 95814. CASE STUDIES ON REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR WORKERS WITH PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES, by Laura Mancuso, is based on interviews with workers with psychiatric disabilities and with their employers.
The book explores the implications of a number of issues related to employment, starting with the very real one of disclosure of the disability. As one employee put it, "The day may dawn when I feel like telling the whole world I have mental illness. But for now it's too risky. I don't want to be ostracized."
This manual describes functional limitations that may be experienced by workers and gives a number of useful examples of reasonable accommodations for those limitations. The most frequent accommodation mentioned was a flexible or part time schedule. Because it focuses on real life problems, it is an especially practical guide to the subject.
The author concludes with the opinion that people with psychiatric disabilities need the anti discrimination protections of the ADA more, perhaps, than any other group. She adds, "This study shows that reasonable accommodations have been, and will continue to be, made for a variety of reasons. Most important, employers willingly make accommodations to increase the productivity of valued employees."
CASE STUDIES ON REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR WORKERS WITH PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES, by Laura Mancuso, California Departmentof Mental Health, 1993. NAMI publication #118, $5.
Reviewed by Carol Rees and Ray Lacey, NAMI Literature Committee