PTSD and Employment Law

Millions of Americans suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) including veterans, emergency responders, and those who see or experience tragic events. PTSD is not just "stress" but a debilitating condition arising after exposure to trauma. The DSM 5 classifies PTSD as an "anxiety disorder." Symptoms include re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding activities or situations associated with the trauma, detachment, and hypersensitivity such as irritability and outbursts, and anxious feelings.

PTSD can be a workplace issue. The U.S. Department of Labor links PTSD to poor job performance. PTSD can cause have problems with concentration, organization, and coping with stress.

For those who have suffered adverse actions from their employer as a result of PTSD, there is legal recourse. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) have been amended to include chronic or episodic conditions with the intent that PTSD can trigger an employer's obligations under the laws protecting people with disabilities. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with PTSD unless the employer can show that such accommodations would cause an undue burden on their operations.

If an employee feels that their job performance is affected by PTSD, the first thing they should do is get diagnosed by a qualified medical provider. It is one thing to say you have PTSD or are suffering from "stress," but it is quite another to have a medical diagnosis PTSD. Once the employee gets this medical diagnosis, the employer has to accept it or ask for a second medical opinion. A medical diagnosis is not required by the law, but it does prevent claims of malingering by the employer.

Once informed of its employee's PTSD, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation. All accommodations are based on the circumstances, there is no one-size-fits-all accommodation. To determine the proper accommodation, the employer must engage in the "interactive process" with the employee. This means talking to the employee and trying to find out how to help them perform better on the job. Accommodations can range from providing longer or more frequent work breaks, additional time to learn new responsibilities, flexible start times, and employer counseling.

What example of PTSD in the workplace is Jensen v. Wells Fargo Bank. In that case, after a bank got robbed, the bank manager began to suffer from PTSD. She feared man who reminded her of the bank robbers. She could not work in a bank branch and applied to work elsewhere in Wells Fargo. The California Court of Appeal found that the employee was disabled under FEHA and that the bank had a duty to reasonably accommodate the employee, including offering different vacant positions within the employer's organization.

The Kaufman Law Firm represents employees with claims for disability discrimination, including claims for discrimination based on their PTSD.  If you have a question regarding PTSD in the workplace, contact The Kaufman Law Firm by calling 818-305-6457 or 866-278-2385 toll free to schedule a free initial consultation. Some cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, depending on the nature of the issue. My firm maintains offices in Westlake Village and Los Angeles.Se habla español.