Much of the public discussion about the recent Germanwings plane crash that killed 150 people on board speculates about the reported mental health issues of the co-pilot as the likely cause. That speculation, in turn, leads to questions about what his employer knew or should have known about his mental health and what all employers— including nonprofits—can and should do to better assure their members, supporters, customers, clients, employees, and the general public of the mental fitness of their employees.
Mental health issues in the workplace are deceptively difficult. They are largely invisible, hard to treat, the subject of many misconceptions, and stigmatized. Well-meaning nonprofit employers must proceed with caution before making employment-related decisions based on assumptions about an employee’s or applicant’s mental health. The legal risks of failing to do so can be significant.
Leaving aside the common issues, how do you know if a person has a mental impairment? Is there an accommodation that will work? Is the accommodation reasonable and does it impose an undue burden on your nonprofit? Will this employee pose a risk to the health or safety of others? There are numerous competing considerations that can be difficult and challenging to balance. Our experienced employment lawyer panelists—who work regularly with our nonprofit clients—will discuss these questions and more about mental health issues in the nonprofit workplace, what employers need to consider and take into account, how to navigate the legal traps and pitfalls, best practices in the area, and practical tips for how to best balance competing obligations.