WHAT IS A PHOBIA?
A phobia is an irrational, and often persistent, fear of certain objects, activities, or persons. The most prominent symptom of this disorder is an obsessive attempt to avoid the feared object. When the fear is beyond one's control, or if the fear is interfering with the sufferer's daily life, then that individual might be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Phobias are extremely common, and they are the most common form of anxiety disorder. It is generally believed that phobias arise as the result of external stimuli and internal predispositions. Most phobias are either social (involving anxiety about interactions with other people, performance, or social settings), specific (the fear of a specific trigger or object, such as snakes, spiders, or flying), or agoraphobic (fear of leaving home or safe spaces).
Some therapists work through an individual's phobias by desensitizing them to the feared object, often by showing them repeated images of the object that they fear. Other therapists recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy, which allows the patient to understand the negative thought patterns and how to change them.
WAYS IN WHICH YOU MIGHT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF A PHOBIA
- 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 in order to control your phobia
HOW THE LAW PROTECTS YOU IF YOU HAVE A PHOBIA
To state a cause of action for disability discrimination, an employee must be disabled, regarded as disabled, or have a record of being disabled. 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. A phobia is such a disability, deserving of protection from discrimination, as long as the phobia limits the individual's ability to work. Accordingly, an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's phobia. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with a phobia 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, if the individual needs to attend psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral, or desensitization therapy, an employer has an obligation to accommodate the employee accordingly, unless doing so would unduly burden the employer.
- For Legal Help see Finding an Attorney and David H. Greenberg, California Employment Law Attorney.