Maternal Mental Health Month

While the birth of a new baby can be a joyous occasion, many mothers can also experience postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a serious condition that can leave a mother feeling sad, anxious, disconnected, overwhelmed, and doubting her ability to care for her baby. The symptoms of postpartum depression can be intense and interfere with a mother’s ability to care for her baby and handle daily tasks.  Postpartum depression is very common, with research by the Center for Disease Control indicating that nationally, approximately 1 in 9 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression.

How postpartum depression symptoms manifest, how intense they feel, and how long they last can be different for each person. Postpartum depression can last well into the time when a mother had planned to return to work, and working mothers suffering from postpartum depression may need to seek an accommodation from their employer, such as a modified work schedule or temporarily working from home.

Mothers requiring accommodations due to postpartum depression may have rights to an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (“ADA”).  The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.  42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A).

Even though postpartum depression can be temporary, it may still qualify as a “disability” under the ADA. In 2008, Congress amended the ADA with the ADA Amendments Act (the “ADAA”) – which significantly expanded the impairments covered as disabilities under the statute. Under the ADA, as amended by the ADAAA, an individual has a “disability” if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his or her major life activities, including, for example, eating, sleeping, and concentrating. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). If a mother’s postpartum depression rises to level of a “disability” under the ADA, an employer might be required to provide a reasonable accommodation so that the mother can remain employed. Many states and local governments also provide additional protections for mothers returning to work after childbirth, regardless of whether their need for accommodation qualifies as a disability under the ADA.

Nichols Kaster’s Individual Practice Group represents employees in broad range of employment-related claims, including employees facing discrimination due to their status as a mother and employees seeking an accommodation from their employer due to a health condition.  Click here for more information.