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Federal Disability
Anxiety Reasonable Accommodations for Federal Employees

Some amount of stress is common in any workplace. However, employees who suffer from anxiety disorders often face challenges beyond everyday work-related stress.

When significant anxiety prevents you from doing your job effectively, a reasonable accommodation can be a crucial way to get support.

In this blog post, we’ll answer some common questions federal employees have about anxiety accommodations.

Some topics we’ll cover include examples of reasonable accommodations, when you can get work-from-home accommodation for anxiety, and what to do if your employer denies your request.

Is Anxiety a Disability Under the ADA?

Yes, anxiety and related mood disorders can qualify as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental condition that limits a person from engaging in major life activities, such as:

  • Eating,
  • Sleeping,
  • Working,
  • Thinking,
  • Concentrating, and
  • Communicating.

Since many anxiety disorders—e.g., depression, agoraphobia, PTSD, OCD—affect all parts of a person’s life, they’re often treated as disabilities by the ADA. Some of the symptoms that people with anxiety disorders face daily include:

  • Restlessness,
  • Extreme fatigue,
  • Intrusive thoughts,
  • Muscle tension,
  • Intense feelings of panic and fear,
  • Difficulty concentrating,
  • Headaches,
  • Memory lapses, and
  • Panic attacks.

Even if you manage your anxiety with medication or therapy, that doesn’t disqualify it from being a disability. If your disorder impairs your life when it’s active, then you’re eligible for reasonable accommodations under the ADA. 

What Do Reasonable Accommodations for Anxiety Disorders Look Like?

A reasonable accommodation is any change to the work environment that helps you manage your condition and perform your duties. 

Here are some examples of reasonable accommodations for federal employees with anxiety disorders:

  • Leave time for medical appointments,
  • Modified or flexible work hours,
  • Additional rest breaks for stress relief,
  • Relocation to a quieter office area,
  • Noise-canceling headphones,
  • Phone calls to a therapist during work hours,
  • Task management software or apps to aid memory, and
  • Support from a service animal.

The accommodations most helpful to you depend on your specific condition and how it impacts your work performance. For instance, some examples of reasonable accommodation for depression could include:

  • Later shifts—in cases when symptoms or medication cause extra drowsiness in the mornings;
  • A desk with a window or a sunlamp—to aid concentration and focus;
  • Stools or anti-fatigue mats—to combat fatigue in positions where standing is required; and
  • Time off work—for example, to meet with a therapist during the workday.

Government employees can also access counseling and mental health support through federal Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Your agency may even have separate counseling staff and initiatives designed to help employees manage anxiety and other mood-related impairments. 

How Do I Request a Reasonable Accommodation for Anxiety at Work?

Requesting a reasonable accommodation is more straightforward than employees expect. To start the process, you must inform your employer that you need to change your work situation because of a medical condition.

You don’t need a particular form to do this. You can even make your request verbally. However, it’s generally best to put your request in writing so that you have documentation of the process. In your request, you should explain in detail:

  • Your anxiety-related impairment,
  • How your condition limits you at work, and
  • The type of accommodation you’re seeking.

Your employer may respond with questions or a request for certification from a doctor. From there, you’ll work together to identify the accommodations that can meet your needs without causing undue hardship to your employer.

Depending on your employer’s resources, you may not be able to have your first choice of accommodation. However, under federal disability law, your employer must try to effectively address your limitations so that you can do your job despite your disability.

Can I Request a Work-From-Home Accommodation for Anxiety?

In some cases, federal employees can receive work-from-home accommodation for anxiety. Examples of when this might be appropriate could include situations when:

  • A high-stress work environment triggers disruptive symptoms;
  • You have unpredictable panic attacks in public settings;
  • Daily therapy sessions or medical appointments disrupt workflow;
  • Commuting provokes symptoms that interfere with work duties; and
  • Sounds, lights, or other uncontrolled factors in the workplace set off symptoms that hamper productivity.

Keep in mind: You may need a letter from a doctor to work from home due to anxiety. If your employer doesn’t typically have remote employees, they may want to confirm this is medically necessary before approving it.

What Happens If My Accommodation Request Is Denied?

First, reach out to your employer. Sometimes, your boss may simply need more information about your condition before approving an accommodation. In other cases, your first-choice accommodation might not be feasible for your employer.

For example, if you are denied a reasonable accommodation to work from home, it may be because your job requires on-site tools or software you cannot access from a personal computer. You and your employer may have to negotiate for another arrangement that meets your needs.

However, if your boss repeatedly rejects your requests and refuses to work with you to develop alternate options—it may be time to talk to a lawyer.

A federal employment lawyer specializing in disability rights can evaluate the situation and assess whether your employer violated your rights. If this is the case, you could take legal action against your employer and potentially recover compensation for disability discrimination. 

Defending the Rights of Federal Employees

Employees who suffer from anxiety disorders know that they can be just as debilitating as a physical ailment. Don’t let a dismissive employer prevent you from exercising your legal rights. At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing PLLC, our mission is supporting and empowering government workers.

With years of experience in cases spanning numerous federal agencies, attorney Aaron D. Wersing has the skill and insider experience to help employees assert their rights against discriminatory employers. Contact our office to learn more about your rights and how we can help you.

Author Photo

Aaron Wersing, Attorney at Law

Aaron Wersing is the founder of the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing. Mr. Wersing graduated from the Georgia State University College of Law with a Doctorate in Jurisprudence and was the recipient of the CALI Excellence for the Future Award. Mr. Wersing previously attended the University of Georgia, where he received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting. Mr. Wersing is an active member of his local community. Mr. Wersing acts as a volunteer attorney with Houston Volunteer Lawyers, the pro bono legal aid organization of the Houston Bar Association. He is also a member of professional legal organizations such as the National Employment Lawyers Association and the American Inns of Court. To reach Aaron for a consultation, please call him at (833) 833-3529.

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