Question: We interviewed a recent college graduate that we would like to hire. During her interview, however, she told us that she is being treated for an anxiety disorder. How should we respond?
Answer: Mental health is an important topic, and one we’re finding should be front and center of discussion in the workplace. First, it’s important to note that while your candidate readily revealed her condition during her interview, your hiring team is not at liberty to discuss the issue or necessary accommodations with her until after she has accepted an offer of employment. More importantly, this information should not prevent you from considering her.
Make sure that you clearly outline the requirements of the job and give the candidate a true picture of what it would be like working in your company and in that job so that she can assess whether she can manage her health condition with those job requirements. She might determine that the job would not be right for her and opt to withdraw her application. If you both decide she’s right for the job and you extend an offer of employment that she accepts, then you may open the line of communication regarding how she plans to manage her disclosed health condition with the requirements of the job. Let her know that you are willing to work with her to maintain her health and be successful in the job. If your organization is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (applies to all employers with 15 or more employees), then you must work with her and her health provider to consider reasonable accommodations, as long as the accommodations do not cause undue hardship.
Those considerations can be relatively simple. If your company provides paid or unpaid sick time or other time off that can be used when she needs a mental health day, you may want to bring those options to her attention. If you have a policy for occasional work at home or flexible work hours, she may be happy to learn about those as well. Make sure your policies leave no room for discrimination towards employees who may find themselves dealing with transitory or chronic mental or physical health issues, and that all your employees are aware of mental health resources available through your employee assistance program (EAP), if you have one.
In all cases, be sure all your employees know that they will be supported by your organization during any health event or crisis, both mental and physical.