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Mental illness leaves some vulnerable to workplace discrimination

Health problems in the workplace are a sensitive matter that can be difficult to discuss. Although workplace discrimination on the basis of health is illegal, it still happens in Wisconsin. This issue is particularly complicated for workers who suffer from mental illnesses and need accommodations in the workplace. Unlike other with more visible health problems, demonstrating discrimination based on mental health can be challenging.

One woman claims that disclosing her mental illness ultimately led to her termination. After working at her place of employment for longer than a year, she needed to take several days off in order to address the health effects of a recent change in her medication. She was fired a week after telling her boss that she needed the time off because of her bipolar disorder. Without a record of that disclosure, she felt there was not enough proof to move forward with any type of legal action.

Many Wisconsin workers who are suffering from mental illnesses fear disclosing this information to their employers because of situations such as this. However, when a person feels that he or she needs time off or reasonable accommodations as per the Americans with Disability Act, disclosing a mental illness is often necessary. To protect against possible discrimination or retaliation, a worker should do his or her best to provide proof of disability -- such as a doctor's note -- and record the disclosure. Providing an accommodation request in written form also helps establish a record.

Living with a mental illness can be debilitating at times. Workers often strive to do their very best work, but like with other health problems, mental illness can get in the way. If an employer refuses to make reasonable accommodations or actively discriminates against a worker who has disclosed a mental illness, it may be possible to seek justice. Any compensation from a successfully pursued workplace discrimination claim can help a victim address his or her damages, including loss of income.

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