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By Timothy Haney
In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, corporate legal professionals engaged in months of speculation about how the Biden Administration might bring a different approach...
Litigators are expected to cover every base when developing briefs for a case, so one of the tasks they often undertake is to compare opposing briefs and motions, one argument at a time. This enables them...
By Randi-Lynn Smallheer and Anna Haliotis
The waves of commercial litigation triggered by the impact of COVID-19 continue to build and crash ashore. Corporate legal departments in every industry are...
By Elias Kahn
American businesses continue to wrestle with what “return to work” really means for their workforce, whether it requires everyone who worked in an office to come back to the...
Anyone who works in litigation knows that organizing and analyzing legal cases can be a chaotic and overwhelming process. Litigation often requires you to manage complex facts, navigate complicated case...
By Elias Kahn
American businesses continue to wrestle with what “return to work” really means for their workforce, whether it requires everyone who worked in an office to come back to the workplace, a shift to a remote work environment or some sort of hybrid approach. In the face of such variation, what’s clear is that an ongoing casualty of the COVID-19 disruption is the mental health of American workers.
The pandemic amplified preexisting mental health issues for employees and significantly increased the risk of worker stress and burnout, according to Mental Health America’s “Mind the Workplace 2021 Report.” Based on a nationwide survey last winter, the report tells us nine in 10 employees reported that workplace stress was affecting their mental health, and three in five felt they were not receiving adequate support from supervisors to help them manage that stress.
However, it appears that more employers are hearing the alarm bells and taking action. A July 2021 study from The Hartford found that 70% of U.S. employers now recognize mental health as a significant workplace issue, and nearly six in 10 U.S. workers feel the culture of their companies has become more accepting of mental health challenges this year.
The reasons for COVID-19’s impact on employee mental health are varied: social distancing policies; mandatory lockdowns; periods of isolation after possible exposure to the virus; anxiety about getting sick; layoffs and income loss; and of course, the devastating personal tragedies associated with deaths of loved ones.
And in addition to any good employer’s concern about the welfare of their valued employees, the fact is that mental health problems in the workforce have a direct impact on the success of the company. In fact, 31% of U.S. employers report the strain on employee mental health is having a significant or severe financial impact on their company due to unplanned absences and prolonged disability leaves.
In-house counsel need to brace for the growing challenge of providing much-needed mental health programs and services to their company’s employees. This requires attorneys to stay apprised of the applicable laws and regulatory guidance on mental health in the workforce.
A variety of federal laws come into play when building or reviewing your organization’s workplace mental health policies, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Here are three major areas—drawn from a newly published practice note authored by Practical Guidance contributing attorneys Jennifer Mathis, Lewis Bossing and Sara Frank—where you may want to review your existing policies and make sure they are aligned with the latest agency guidance.
COVID-19 has taken a horrific toll on millions of lives worldwide, and it continues to exact a cost on millions more who are returning to the workforce this year. Your organization likely has employees who are struggling with very real mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety and sleep disorders.
In the past, this has been somewhat of a blind spot for employers. A 2019 study by the American Psychiatric Association found that just one in five employees was completely comfortable discussing mental health issues with co-workers and supervisors due to fears of workplace discrimination. These fears were well-founded; during fiscal year 2016, the EEOC resolved almost 5,000 charges of discrimination based on mental health conditions.
In-house counsel need to lean into this issue and make sure their organizations are complying with their legal—and ethical—obligations to help their valued employees suffering from mental health challenges as they return to work. It is not only a compliance issue; it is also a bottom-line issue for the company’s financial success.
LexisNexis® offers comprehensive resources to help corporate legal professionals navigate these important issues, including our COVID-19 Resource Kit: Return to Work, which is updated regularly.
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