NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Expanding Workplace Mandates For The Mentally Ill

July 31, 1997

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued new guidelines for mental illness that leave employers virtually unprotected from employees claiming a mental disability, say critics.

  • When Congress passed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, everyone understood the law to ensure equal opportunity for the physically impaired.
  • The EEOC issued guidelines last year expanding ADA's umbrella of coverage to include all mental disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
  • The DSM lists some 374 psychiatric disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder, and avoidant personality disorder.

Because these loose categories of mental disorders may include a whole panoply of anti-social and/or uncooperative behaviors, employers are left virtually powerless to maintain order and cooperation in the workplace.

Analysts predict the cost to the employer, and ultimately to the consumer, could be substantial:

  • The ADA requires employers to accommodate employees' disabilities.
  • The EEOC has ruled accommodation may include time off, a modified work schedule or physical changes to work place.
  • According to the Center for Equal Opportunity, more complaints have been filed with the EEOC on the grounds of mental disability than any other basis save one (back trouble).

Mona Charen (syndicated columnist), "Frenetic Guidelines Straight from EEOC," Washington Times, July 31, 1997.


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