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3 min read

Terminating an Employee With Mental Health Issues: Is it Okay?

Williamsburg Therapy Group Man sitting at table looking sad

Mental illness is a growing concern in the United States. Year after year, we are seeing more men, women, and children impacted by mental illness. Did you know that one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental health challenges? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, that means 21% of all adults personally know the difficulties that come with mental illness.

Mental illness surrounds each one of us. Everyday individuals like you and me live with mental health struggles, including coworkers, employees, staff members, attendants, managers, and many more workforce positions. 

How do these statistics affect employers? If an employee’s job performance suffers due to mental illness, is terminating an employee with mental health issues a legal option? What is the effect of poor mental health on today’s workforce? Let’s discuss the ramifications that come with dismissing an employee with mental health problems.


Can You Fire Someone With a Mental Illness?

I think we can all agree that managing the ins and outs of life can be overwhelming, which means personal life matters may seep into our work responsibilities at times. When you throw mental illness into the picture, performing job duties can be even more difficult. 

When it comes to firing an employee with mental health issues, laws are in place to protect against workplace discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was created to prohibit “discrimination on the basis of disability just as other civil rights laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.” 


What is a Disability?

Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, some more outwardly visible than others. A person with a disability is defined as someone that has:

  • A mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities 
  • A physical impairment that substantially limits major life activities 
  • A history or record that reflects an impairment 
  • A characteristic(s) that is perceived or believed to be an impairment 

How Does the ADA Protect Employment Opportunities?

Mental health conditions are covered by this federal civil rights law. Essentially, individuals with or without a mental illness should be hired or fired based on value, qualifications, and performance. An employer cannot discriminate against a potential employee or current employee solely based on the diagnosis of a mental health condition. It’s all about giving the same employment opportunities to people with disabilities. 

What an employer can do is fire employees that do not complete their job duties as they should. If a person is unable to fulfill the responsibilities of a job, lack of skills and abilities can be a reason for termination. In addition, employees that pose a direct threat to the safety of others or themselves can be a reason for dismissal. 

Employers should take appropriate steps before terminating an employee with mental health issues. In fact, it’s required by law. Employers are supposed to provide reasonable accommodations that can help their employees complete certain job duties and function within a job role. The type of accommodations vary depending on the needs of a specific employee, but the primary goal is to relieve that employee of difficulty, expense, or undue hardship brought on by a job responsibility. 


Assisting Instead of Terminating an Employee with Mental Health Issues 

While there are numerous ways an employer can accommodate an employee, offering mental health support is one possible option. Bringing an awareness of counseling services or allowing time for therapy appointments is often a needed component of mental health accommodations.

Knowing that mental illness is an increasingly common condition, access to high-quality behavioral health care is more than just a useful tool for an employee. It’s becoming a necessity. At Williamsburg Therapy Group, we feel passionate about employers providing best-in-class mental health care services to their employees. 


Why Offering Mental Health Care Matters

Finding appropriate behavioral health care can be hard to come by, especially since qualified providers can be few and far between. The Employer Program at Williamsburg Therapy Group is designed to fill that void. It’s a program where employers can guarantee that their employees and their families have quick access to a complete team of doctoral-level psychologists and psychiatrists, capable of treating a full spectrum of behavioral health issues.

Benefits of Supporting an Employee’s Mental Health

When a company shows their commitment to prioritize the mental health of their employees, job candidates take notice. Our proven program has shown to:

  • Improve employee productivity
  • Strengthen company culture
  • Attract and retain top talent
  • Mitigate the high costs of health care

A company becomes an employer of choice when they strive to be an advocate of mental health stability. 


A Program to Help Employers Avoid Dismissing an Employee with Mental Health Challenges

The goal of the Employer Program is to give employees and their loved ones VIP access to personalized mental health care from the best providers, which could make a huge difference for an employee who is having trouble with their mental health. While firing an employee with mental health issues can have negative consequences, supporting an employee with appropriate behavioral health care is always beneficial. 

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, we feel giving people with disabilities equal access to employment is an important cause. If you are an employer caught in a sticky situation with an employee, make sure to do your research about the rights of employees with mental illness. 

In the meantime, you can be a leader who stands up for employee access to the help they need, when they need it. Read more about how guaranteeing integrated care with our Employer Program could grow your business.  

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