Employees turned killers: Should job mental health screenings be required?

By Molly Seaman
April 6, 2016

Creative Commons

In Northeast Philadelphia an altercation between two employees turned deadly at the Kraft Food plant.

Yvonne Hiller, 43, was known to have frequent disagreements with her fellow employees, however no one ever expected the run in’s to become violent.

Hiller was escorted off the property and stripped of her employee ID the day of the argument. She returned to the plant later that day however with a gun.

According to reports, the woman opened fire on four Kraft employees in the break room, killing two and injuring the others.

Hiller’s final words before the shooting? “I have had enough.”

While the events and causes of similar workplace shootings may vary, some are linked to mental illness.

In 2014, the American Psychological Association conducted a study in which they found only 7.5 percent of crimes were committed by those with a mental illness.

Researchers studied 429 crimes committed by 143 offenders with three major types of mental illness. The study found that crimes were directly related to symptoms of major depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous,” Dr. Jillian Peterson, the study’s head researcher, stated.

However, one can only wonder after such a horrific event takes place if it could have been prevented.

This brings us to a very touchy and controversial subject. Should employers require their workers to get mental health screenings before they are hired?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 18.5 percent of adults in the United States (43.8 million people) battle mental illness every year.

Of the 18.5 percent dealing with mental illness, only 4.2 percent find themselves unable to work due to the symptoms.

These numbers have prompted several employers to look into screening their employee’s mental health. However, there are several laws that protect workers from this process.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protection that prevents acts of discrimination toward the mentally and physically impaired in the workplace.

Serious mental illness is considered a protected disability under the ADA. Because of this, employers are not allowed to screen for mental illness before the candidate is hired.

The employer can only ask for medical records once a job offer is made if they follow suite with ALL employees. This eliminates the potential of discrimination within the workplace.

According to an article written by Jay P. Holland, a lawyer at Joseph Greenwald law firm in Pennsylvania, one of the best ways to understand and better a situation is through education.

“One best practice is to develop an awareness program that educates employees on the types of mental illnesses and their symptoms. Such a program should be offered by a professional who has experience delivering mental illness awareness programs in workplace settings,” Holland said. “In addition, any awareness program should provide employees with information about the company’s mental health resources and how to access them.”

Molly Seaman

Managing Editor of the Loquitur at Cabrini University. Colorado Born and Raised. 21 years old with a deep love for people, travel and education.

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