Mental Stability in the Workplace: Assessments, Accommodations and Responses to Threats and Violence
Threats of physical harm in the workplace may arise in a variety of ways, none benign. They range from bullying behavior to blatant homicidal and suicidal statements. Typically, employers must contend with a threatening and aggressive employee while under considerable pressure to take action quickly. Employers must safeguard their employees and workplace without under- or over-reacting, or running afoul of laws that protect individuals with mental disabilities from discrimination or harassment due to their impairments. Complicating matters for employers, a mental health professional’s clinical assessment of an employee’s propensity for violence is a reasonable prediction, not a guarantee.
Employers must be knowledgeable about protections and procedural safeguards afforded employees with certain mental impairments, and the clinical resources available to assess an employee's propensity for violence. While it is erroneous to presume or automatically attribute threatening or aggressive behavior to a mental impairment, employers disregard laws protecting employees with mental impairments at their own peril.
Please join forensic psychiatrist Stuart B. Kleinman, M.D. and Stephen P. Sonnenberg, Chair of Paul Hastings' New York Employment Law Department, as they discuss the latitude allowed and constraints imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and analogous state laws when employees engage in threats, bullying or violence in the workplace, including:
Assessing an employee’s mental stability – what’s allowed and what’s not
Whether an employer must diagnose an employee who engages in threatening or aggressive workplace behavior before taking action
How to distinguish between situations in which an employee is required to undergo a mental examination and those in which requiring one is either unnecessary or ill-advised
The role of the mental health professional in assessing employees who engage in threatening or aggressive behavior, including threat assessment – what is it and how is it done?
When and how an employer can lawfully exclude an employee with a protected mental impairment from the workplace due to threatening, self-destructive or disruptive behavior, including the direct threat defense
Potential accommodations for employees with mental impairments