An individual’s beliefs about someone else are likely to influence how he or she treats or reacts to the person. But employers who witness employee behavior problems and slap psychiatric labels such as bipolar or schizophrenic on the worker risk being charged with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, explains Warren & Associates attorney Sindy Warren on the firm’s blog.

Warren says the ADA not only covers “disabilities,” but also individuals who are “regarded as” having disabilities. Therefore, she says “an employee who is perceived as being disabled and subjected to an adverse action based on this perception can have a solid claim under the statute.”

That doesn’t mean employers have to tolerate the problem, she says, they just need to avoid focusing on the cause. Instead of saying “James’ OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is interfering with his ability to focus on his long-term assignment,” Warren suggests phrasing it thusly: “James has consistently failed to focus on and make progress with respect to his long-term assignment.”

To avoid trouble, she says supervisors need to be made aware of the “regarded as” prong of the ADA.