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Psychiatric Issues and Mental Health Problems: What Is the Responsibility of the Employer in This Situation?

Recently, an increased amount of attention has been paid to mental health issues. Everyone needs to have access to a trained mental health professional who can manage issues such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Now, it appears that mental health issues are making their way into employment law as well. Recently, a High Court made an important decision in dismissing a wrongful termination case brought by a former employee.

An employer dismissed a former employee when that individual assaulted a colleague at work. In response, the former employee filed a lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit alleged that the plaintiff broke down because he was overworked, physically ill, and mentally ill. The individual also claimed that the defendant was responsible for his mental health issues. The individual was seeking damages related to personal injury due to an adverse impact on his mental health and physical well-being brought on by poor working conditions.

The judge decided to dismiss this case. The judge stated that the defendant was unable to prove that the employer should have known he was suffering from pre-existing psychiatric conditions. Therefore, the defendants were granted summary judgment and the case was dismissed. Even though the individual filing the lawsuit may have proven that he was suffering from mental health issues, he was not able to prove that his employer should have known that he was suffering from these issues. As a result, there was no way his employer should have altered his working conditions due to his pre-existing mental health conditions and diagnoses.

Employees need to disclose pre-existing physical and mental health issues to their employers. That way, their employers may be able to take steps to better accommodate their health issues. It is not necessarily the responsibility of employers to ask employees whether they are suffering from pre-existing conditions. Instead, employees need to voice their concerns to make sure they can be accommodated. As this recent dismissal indicates, individuals who break down due to mental health issues at work might not necessarily be able to bring a case of wrongful treatment or wrongful termination against a former employer.