WHAT IS SCHIZOPHRENIA?
Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disease that is characterized by impairments in the perception and expression of reality as well as by severe social and occupational inabilities. Schizophrenics typically suffer from disorganized thinking, delusions, and hallucinations. While the behavior typically affects a sufferer's cognition, behavioral and emotional problems are also a serious hindrance to a schizophrenic.
While the definite cause of schizophrenia is unknown, genetics, environment, neurobiology, and psychological and social processes are likely important contributory factors. The disease is commonly misunderstood, and many people equate it with split personalities or with violent tendencies. Neither, however, is an accurate assessment of the disease. Schizophrenia is a serious disease that causes extreme turmoil for the individual, but it does not render him or her violent.
Treatment for schizophrenia is available, generally with a combination of medication and psychotherapy, but a "cure" is still unavailable.
WAYS IN WHICH YOU MIGHT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
- 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 allow you to miss work occasionally to undergo psychotherapy to treat your schizophrenia
HOW THE LAW PROTECTS YOU IF YOU HAVE SCHIZOPHRENIA
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. Schizophrenia 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 schizophrenia. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with schizophrenia 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 schizophrenia might need to miss work occasionally, because he or she needs to attend psychotherapy sessions to treat the disorder. An employer has an obligation to accommodate the individual accordingly, unless doing so would unduly burden the employer.
- For Legal Help see Finding an Attorney and David H. Greenberg, California Employment Law Attorney.