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From Claudia's Corner: The Anxiety of Returning to Work

Claudia A. Reis So what are New Jersey employees suffering from anxiety and/or depression supposed to do if they are called back to work and told they have to go into their workplaces? Must employees choose between returning to work at the risk of their emotional well-being and facing financial ruin because they will be fired and denied unemployment if anxiety prevents them from returning to work? No, those two terrible choices may not be the only choices.

Are There any Options for Employees too Anxious to Return to Work?

Diagnosed anxiety is a disability under New Jersey law that employers must reasonably accommodate as long as the accommodation doesn’t create an undue hardship for the particular employer. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to accommodations, the law recognizes that remote working (allowing employees to work-from-home) can be one type of accommodation that is reasonable.

Before Covid, a lot of employers took the position that remote working just wasn’t possible or imposed an undue hardship on them. But Coronavirus has shown that working-from-home is possible for most employees. Because of this, it will be very difficult for employers who have had their employees work from home since mid-March to suddenly take the position that working remotely is either not possible or imposes an undue hardship. But that doesn’t mean that employers are required to allow remote working if there are other reasonable ways to accommodate anxiety.

What Should You Do?

The process to request accommodations can be tricky. You should get documentation of your disorder and need for an accommodation and provide that your employer. That triggers your employer’s obligation to engage in the interactive process, which is a fancy way of saying that they have to discuss with you different options that may work as an accommodation for you. In most cases, that may provide you with the accommodations you need especially in a post-Covid world where remote working is obviously doable. If your employer refuses to accommodate you or refuses to engage in the interactive process, you should immediately contact Claudia Reis and Chris Lenzo, New Jersey employment lawyers to help guide you through the process or talk to your employer on your behalf so that you don’t have to choose between your health and financial stability.

Claudia’s Corner is brought to you by Claudia Reis, your New Jersey employment attorney who only represents workers.

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