Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)

About 10% of all Americans report suffering from depression at some time in their adult life, often severe enough to warrant treatment in some form, including medication. Depression is categorized by a general loss of interest, persistent feelings of sadness or dejection and thoughts of despair that can affect a person’s mood. If depression is persistent, it is likely Major Depressive Disorder, or Clinical Depression, which is more than just a spell of sadness. Depression can also manifest into physical symptoms, such as body fatigue and exhaustion. As with all mental illnesses, the exact cause or causes of depression remain unknown. However, there are factors, occurring separately or in combination, that are thought to contribute to depression. These factors include change in body’s hormones, such as from thyroid disorders or changes that occur postpartum, inherited qualities that make someone more susceptible to depression, stressful life events including trauma, and trauma in early childhood, such as abuse or the death of a parent, which can cause permanent changes in the brain, leaving children susceptible to depression in adulthood. Depression can occur in adolescence or any time during adulthood, and is often chronic and unrelenting. As those struggling with depression know, it has widespread affects on people’s lives, both personally and professionally.

Unfortunately, depression is frequently misunderstood, and those suffering can experience discrimination in the workplace. Often coworkers and/or supervisors do not understand the symptoms or mere existence of depression because the causes are unknown. Additionally, there is a societal stigma associated with those being treated for depression as being weak and unable to handle their own lives. Individuals not suffering from depression do not understand that it is a chronic medical illness requiring treatment, just like heart disease or diabetes. Because of its chronic and pervasive nature, depression can qualify as a “mental impairment” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), affording those suffering from depression with protection against discrimination in the workplace.

Depression can affect an employee’s overall productivity, ability to focus on assigned tasks, the desire to go to work, and interpersonal relationships with co-workers, to name just a few. Depression is often exacerbated by the anxiety of having to miss work, the urge to leave work early, and conflicts with coworkers. Sometimes, these conflicts and misperceptions can lead to a negative change in position, reduction or change of responsibilities, demotions, or the inability to advance by being continually passed over for promotions. Often employers are still capable of performing their essential job functions either with or without reasonable accommodations but are viewed as disinterested or negative by supervisors and adverse employment action, such as that described above, is taken.

As discussed above, persons that suffer from depression are potentially covered under the ADA. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with an ADA designated disability. Persons on Long Island or in the five Burroughs; Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx and Manhattan, who suffer from depression and who request reasonable accommodations that are not provided, or who experience any other type of disability discrimination in the workplace, should contact a New York disability employment attorney to properly assert their rights.

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