NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Disabilities Act Helps Create Them

January 5, 1998

Some psychiatrists say that including psychiatric disorders under the protection of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) works against the very people it is intended to protect, while creating unlimited administrative, financial and legal obligations for employers.

The ADA recognizes psychiatric disorders that "substantially limit one or more major life activities" as disabilities. These may include personality disorders characterized by hostility, irresponsibility and deceitfulness -- which are essentially behavioral problems defined as medical problems.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidelines to help employers comply with the ADA as it related to psychiatric disorders in March 1997. Now 13 percent of complaints under the ADA are for psychiatric disorders, second only to back problems.

But workers with psychiatric problems would be better off in an unregulated job market:

  • In the unregulated job market, employers were willing to accommodate productive workers with temporary problems.
  • Now employers are finding creative ways to avoid hiring anyone diagnosed with a psychiatric problem -- since hiring them could mean years of accommodating obnoxious behavior, followed by years of litigation.
  • Also, the ADA regulations encourage workers to become or remain "disabled" to extract accommodations -- such as altered work hours or low-stress tasks.
  • Thus protecting bad behavior removes one of society's best "treatments" for workplace performance problems: pressure from employers to conform, cooperate and produce.

If society were to shift responsibility for their behavior back to individual workers, say observers, many with psychiatric "disabilities" would immediately find themselves cured.

Source: Michael J. Reznicek, "A Recipe for Creating Disabilities," Weekly Standard, December 29, 1997/January 5, 1998.


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