What is Depression?

Clinical depression is a condition of intense sadness or despair that is so advanced that it interrupts an individual's ability to function socially, to participate in activities, or carry out the tasks of daily life. Clinical depression is a clinical diagnosis that is likely very different from the everyday meaning of "being depressed." Depression sufferers often report feeling sad for no reason or having no motivation to do anything. One may also feel tired, sad, irritable, lazy, apathetic, and unmotivated. Further, clinical depression often leads to substance abuse.

Treatment for depression often includes intensive psychotherapy and counseling sessions, paired with anti-depressant medication. Treatment is often time consuming, but generally effective. In some individuals, however, electroconvulsive therapy is necessary, and electric shock is sent through the sufferer's brain, in an attempt to suppress mental distress.

Ways in Which You Might be Discriminated Against Because of Depression
  • Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments
  • Your employer does not accommodate your need to take a reasonable amount of time off of work
  • Your employer will not provide reasonable on-site accommodations for your disability
  • Your employer does not accommodate your need to attend psychotherapy or counseling sessions
How the Law Protects You if You Have Depression

To state a cause of action for disability discrimination, an employee must show that she has a disability, is regarded as having a disability, or has a record of having a disability. The employee must then show that his or her disability results in physical limitations, that he or she can still perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations), and that the employer took some adverse action (such as not hiring, firing, or demoting the employee) on the basis of that disability.

Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act provide protection against disability discrimination for individuals with mental disabilities. Depression is such a disability, deserving of protection from discrimination. Accordingly, an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's depression. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with depression so as to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The law will protect an employee whose employer does not provide these necessary accommodations. For example, an individual with depression often needs to spend time in weekly or even biweekly counseling or therapy sessions. Because depression is such a serious mental disorder, an employer has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee by allowing him or her to miss a reasonable amount of work to attend such counseling, unless the employer is unduly burdened in providing such accommodations.

Further Information