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Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar Treatment Side Effects, and Disability Discrimination Law in New Jersey

Most people have heard the term “bipolar disorder,” or perhaps the older descriptor “manic depression,” but they may not know exactly how common the disorder truly is. The National Institute of Mental Health’s website reports that bipolar disorder, which is defined as “a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks,” affected nearly 3 percent of U.S. adults in the past year. Nearly 4.5 percent of U.S. adults will experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetimes. If you have suffered discrimination on the job due to your bipolar disorder or another medical condition, you should reach out to a New Jersey disability discrimination attorney about your situation.

What protection does the law provide to people with bipolar disorder when it comes to workplace discrimination? The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination says that a “disability” under the law can be either a physical disability or a “mental, psychological or developmental disability that results from conditions that prevent the normal exercise of any bodily or mental function.” This type of disability includes conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit disorder, and bipolar disorder (among others).

As people with bipolar disorder know, there are two very distinct sets of challenges they face that can affect their work. One set is the symptoms of the disorder itself, when their bipolar disorder is either untreated or not yet under control. The other is the side effects of the drugs that are often needed by many people to bring their bipolar disorder under control. Some people with bipolar disorder may need powerful medications that can have many side effects. These can include drowsiness or trouble waking in the morning, increased need to urinate, or nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws require employers to provide employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations, as long as those accommodations do not inflict an “undue hardship” on the employer. Depending on the nature of a worker’s job and the nature of a worker’s disability, a reasonable accommodation might mean a modification to a work station, moving an employee’s work space to a different area (such as closer to the bathrooms), job reassignment, a leave of absence, or a modified work schedule.

A little less than a decade ago, the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals, whose rulings affect federal cases in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, issued an important ruling that can affect people with bipolar disorder in New Jersey. That court’s ruling said that an employee may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation for the effects of a medication you’re taking. To qualify, your doctor must conclude that the drug is medically necessary, there must be no similarly effective drug with fewer disabling side effects, and the need for the drug cannot be a result of your voluntary choices. If you demonstrate these things, you may be entitled to a workplace accommodation to address your side effects.

As a person with bipolar disorder, you know that there are many disorder-related things that have the ability to disable you, or at least affect how you work. Those things can be related to the disorder itself or to medications you need as part of your treatment. The obligation of your employer is to engage you in a good-faith effort to provide you with a reasonable accommodation. If you think you’ve been denied a reasonable accommodation or otherwise suffered from discrimination because of your bipolar disorder or another form of mental illness, you should contact the skilled New Jersey mental illness discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. We have been working hard to provide determined representation for workers throughout New Jersey. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

Bipolar Disorder and Legal Protections Against Disability Discrimination in New Jersey, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Dec. 11, 2017

NFL Linebacker Sues Former Team in New Jersey for Allegedly Engaging in Illegal Discrimination Based Upon His Bipolar Disorder, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 5, 2017

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