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Does PTSD Qualify as a Disability Under the ADA?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

By now, most of us have heard of PTSD -- posttraumatic stress disorder. Most commonly associated with soldiers returning from war, PTSD can occur in anyone exposed to a traumatic event, like gun violence, sexual assault, and extreme traffic collisions.

While PTSD is classified as a "trauma- and stressor-related disorder" in the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, does that mean it is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act? And, if so, does your small business need to provide accommodations for employees with PTSD?

Accommodating ADA

There are two prongs to ADA enforcement when it comes to small businesses. The first is the prohibition on employment discrimination against existing and prospective employees with disabilities. Employers may not discriminate based on disabilities when it comes to recruitment, hiring, training, promotions, pay, or social activities.

The second is the requirement that employers provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship. Both prongs of the ADA only apply, however, to qualifying disabilities under the statute.

Perceiving PTSD

A qualifying disability is defined generally as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission specifically defined mental impairment as "any mental or psychological disorder" and confirmed that PTSD is covered under the ADA in a 2008 opinion letter.

An employee suffering from PTSD may have flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, increased tension, and be prone to outbursts. Reasonable accommodations to ease a PTSD-afflicted employee might include flexible scheduling to allow for counseling and treatment, telecommuting options, increased privacy in the workplace, or allowing a service animal at work.

To ensure that your small business is ADA-compliant, for those with PTSD and other disabilities, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney. Contact one in your area today.

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