A key concept for those with depression is that the disability must be known. Employers are forbidden by law to ask about the existence, nature or severity of a disability. They may only ask the employee about their ability to perform the job functions. This puts the responsibility on the employee to confer with his employer about the existence of his illness and what accommodations he may need. A job offer may only be conditioned on the results of a medical examination if that examination is required for all entering employees in the same job category regardless of disability. The information obtained must be handled according to confidentiality requirements specified in the Act.
Because of the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental illness, disclosure may be a difficult choice for the employee to make. Unless an employee feels a high degree of trust and support from his supervisor, he may opt to "tough it out" rather than risk disclosure. If you are struggling to fulfill your job obligations due to your illness this may be a bad move, however. By requesting accommodations, you may be able to avoid poor performance reviews or even a lost job. Even if you do lose your job after your illness becomes known, disclosure will help you retain your right to bring suit against your employer. Remember, it's not discrimination if your employer was unaware of your illness.
If You've Been Discriminated Against
If you think you have been discriminated against in employment on the basis of disability you should contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file your complaint. A charge of discrimination generally must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. You may have up to 300 days to file a charge if there is a state or local law that provides relief for discrimination on the basis of disability.
To file a charge of discrimination contact any EEOC Field Offices. These offices are located in cities throughout the United States. If it is found that you have been discriminated against, you are entitled to a remedy that will place you in the position you would have been in if the discrimination had never occurred. You may be entitled to hiring, promotion, reinstatement, back pay, or reasonable accommodation, including reassignment. You may also be entitled to attorneys fees.