About 14.8 million American adults suffer from depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Depression is the leading cause of disability among young adults in the U.S. Many people with depression work successfully in a variety of jobs. However, they may sometimes need to take time off due to their condition, either due to an increase in symptoms or to seek more intensive treatment than they can receive while working.
Reasons for Missing Work
Symptoms of depression that make working difficult include lack of energy, lack of motivation, constant weepiness, irritability, excessive sleeping or insomnia that causes excessive daytime sleepiness, trouble concentrating and poor short-term memory. People may have difficulty focusing on their work or may forget things they need to do. Their work may appear sloppy. They may have trouble getting along with customers or coworkers. Sometimes people need to be hospitalized for brief periods for intensive treatment.
Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires covered employers to allow qualifying employees to take up to 12 weeks off every year for the birth of child or due to a serious medical problem such as depression. Employers must have at least 50 employees in order to be covered by FMLA. Employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year. Employees can use FMLA if they need time off work due to depression.
Employees who do not qualify for FMLA can usually use sick time or vacation time if they must take off work due to depression. But it depends on the policies of the employers. Some employers allow employees to take unpaid leaves of absence even if they do not qualify for FMLA, but employers are not required to do so.
Employers usually have forms that they ask employees to complete when requesting a medical leave of absence, including under FMLA. In order to take an FMLA leave, employees usually have to provide a form completed and signed by their treating physicians. However, employees do not have to tell employers they need a FMLA leave due to depression if they don’t want to share that information. Employers may try to insist that employees divulge the nature of their medical problems when taking extended sick time or another leave of absence. However, employees can usually decline to provide details and just provide a letter from their doctors stating they need time off due to an illness.
Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities, including depression. Employers cannot fire employees who suffer from depression just because they are depressed. Employers can institute and enforce attendance policies and can dismiss employees who miss too much work for any reason, providing that those employees do not qualify for FMLA. The ADA requires employers to modify work schedules for disabled employees if necessary when doing so does not constitute an undue hardship for the company.