Now that the World Health Organization considers ‘gaming disorder’ a mental health disorder, you might be wondering what that means for you and your Overwatch addiction. Does that mean that a weekend spent gaming classifies as a disability? Does that mean your employer is required to provide you with a reasonable accommodation? Can everyone bring their PlayStation 4 to the office now?
Here’s what you need to know.
Gaming Employee Disability
While the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to accommodate disabled employees, it doesn’t provide a specific list of covered disabilities. Instead, each employee is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, determining whether they actually have (or are thought to have) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits what the ADA calls a “major life activity.” So, does that cover gaming disorder? Maybe.
For example, an employee whose use of drugs or alcohol prevents them from performing their duties is not protected under the ADA, nor are employees who use illegal drugs. But a recovering alcoholic who can still perform the duties of his or her job despite his or her addiction is protected.
Gaming Employee Diagnosis
The WHO provided three requirements for a gaming disorder diagnosis:
Gaming is strongly preferred over other activities;
The patient does not stop gaming even when there are negative consequences like seeing their friends less or doing badly at their job; and
The compulsive gaming strains the patient’s life or relationships.
The WHO’s Dr. Vladimir Poznyak was clear, however, to note that a person does not have a disorder just because they play video game. “Millions of gamers around the world, even when it comes to the intense gaming, would never qualify as people suffering from gaming disorder,” he told CNN, adding, “let me emphasize that this is a clinical condition, and clinical diagnosis can be made only by health professionals which are properly trained to do that.”
And if you are diagnosed with a gaming disorder, what kind of accommodations must your employer provide? The ADA reviews reasonable accommodations on an individual basis, and they can be anything from restructuring your schedule or job duties to installing special equipment to help you perform your duties. While that likely doesn’t mean an Xbox for your cubicle, it could mean giving you enough time off to attend therapy sessions.
Talk to an experienced disability attorney for help.