Mental Illness and Job Applications

B. Barker     07.02.2017

Unfortunately, many job applications pose the question, or a question similar to, “please identify any mental illness or condition that may interfere with your ability to perform well on the job.” This is followed by a list of multiple disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, and many others. The problem is not in the question, so much as the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (later amended in 2008 and effective in 2009) states strict hiring and firing requirements that have been avoided by many employers.

However, there are many issues with these requirements. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division (https://www.ada.gov/archive/q&aeng02.htm) companies may ask potential employees to identify their conditions in the pre-employment stages if a law is in place where the company will need to know about the condition to provide them with the necessary “special services”.

The problem with this law and loophole, is if a company is willing to provide services to accommodate one’s condition, the company can inquire about one’s condition during the post-employment stage. Many incidences have been reported where an individual can meet all of the job requirements and not be hired only because they identified a physical or mental condition on their job application. So I tested this:

I sent out 10 job applications, two per company, to five different companies. The names were different, but similar, and everything else was the same. Except for one would have depression marked, the other would not. At every company, the account with depression would be denied, and the one without a condition would get a call to schedule an interview within the next few days.

My suggestion for anyone with a condition: don’t identify it. And if you identify it, have the qualifications, and don’t have the chance to get an interview, submit a report to the ADA here: https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm

Feel free to comment your stories or concerns! I will do my best to respond and advise.

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