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About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that affects millions of adults. Other conditions can accompany OCD, resulting in a dual-diagnosis, including eating disorders, other anxiety disorders, and depression. Symptoms of OCD include persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and the use of rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety those thoughts produce. These rituals can end up controlling individuals with OCD and negatively impact their personal and work life, resulting in the need for accommodations at work. Common problems in the workplace for employees with OCD that may require reasonable accommodation include attendance and punctuality issues, the ability to meet deadlines and stay organized, and problems maintaining concentration and managing distractions.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a definitive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
Accommodating Employees with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with OCD may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with OCD will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Situations and Solutions:
The following situations and solutions are real-life examples of accommodations that were made by JAN customers. Because accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, these examples may not be effective for every workplace but give you an idea about the types of accommodations that are possible.
A baker with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) repeatedly checked ingredients for recipes.
The individual was accommodated with a computerized checklist for each baked good recipe on the menu. He was allowed time in the morning to arrange and check off items to be used during the day. When he felt the urge to recheck the ingredients he could do this quickly by using his daily checklist. This checklist was placed in a handheld computer that resembled the two-way radios used by all employees.
An employee with obsessive compulsive personality disorder works as an administrative assistant for a physician's office.
After being hired, she discloses her condition and requests accommodations in the form of written instructions, checklists, and a private workspace. The employer agrees to the accommodations. A few weeks into the job, the employee tells her supervisor she does not like the documentation system the office is using, and will be making changes as she sees fit. The supervisor explains that will not be tolerated, that she needs to follow their protocol, but the employee follows through with making her own changes. The supervisor takes disciplinary action and tells the employee if she continues to go against the employer's protocol that she could be terminated. The employee responds by writing an e-mail to the supervisor outlining how her way of doing things is better and why the employer should make the changes she is suggesting. The employer insists it will not make the changes and the employee needs to comply. The employee continues to defy the employer's instruction and is terminated.
A truck driver who had OCD and specific issues with cleanliness was required to drive another person’s truck when his broke down.
His employer insisted that he get back out on the road as soon as possible. The employee was not afforded the time he needed to clean out the truck before he used it. Once the employee explained to his employer that he had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and what solutions would work to help him, the employer allowed the driver a more relaxed starting time for his next run when he had to use someone else’s truck so that he could adequately clean it out before leaving. The driver had the supplies he needed, as he carried a cleaning kit with him for quick cleansing jobs that needed to be done along the way in his own truck.
An elementary teacher with OCD couldn’t get to work on time to do the early bus duties, but had no problems doing the after-school ones.
She asked to be accommodated by exchanging her early duties with another teacher who preferred to do the early duties in place of the after-school ones. The accommodation was approved, allowing her to do the after-school duty for both her own turns and the other teacher’s turns, but no early morning duty as the other teacher would do the early bus duties for both of them.
JAN Publications & Articles Regarding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Accommodation and Compliance Series
Consultants' Corner Articles
- Accommodating Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
- Cognitive Impairment and the Interactive Process
- Determining if Apps Are Right for You
- Disclosing a Disability Before an Accommodation is Needed
- I Understand You Are Stressed...But Aren’t We All?
- My Disability Made Me Do It! When It Does and Doesn’t Matter
- Return to Work After Hospitalization for Mental Health Treatment