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I am diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and was recently terminated from my job, do I have a case through the ADA?

Denton, MD |

My employer was fully aware of my disability. I called out of one day of work because I was having a psychotic episode, and was terminated on the grounds that they needed more reliability (basically they fired me for being disabled).

Attorney Answers 6

Posted

Much more information needed, including:

1. how long did you work for the employer
2. how many employees does the employer have
3. was your employer aware of your disability

Once that info is provided, more meaningful responses will be forthcoming.

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Posted

I worked there for a few months. I'm not sure as to the number of employees. My employer was aware of my disability.

Posted

Were you fired for being disabled? Or because your employer needs an employee who can show up and get the work done, albeit with some meaningful accommodations?

ADA, if applicable here, requires no more than that the employer make such accommodations as are reasonable to enable the employee to perform the core duties of the job. In many employments the irreducible minimum is that employee can appear as needed at the workplace notwithstanding the covered disability.

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Posted

This was the first time I called out, and my employer had a policy that we have three call outs before termination.

Posted

My question is about your condition. This is a genuine inquiry, not an accusation. Usually a person in the throes of a manic episode has neither the presence of mind nor the inclination to do something so responsible as to call in sick. As a matter of fact, avoiding responsible behavior is a hallmark of the manic episode. How many times before this episode had you called in sick in the preceding six months, for any reason? Are you taking all necessary steps to deal with your bipolar disorder (therapy, medication)? Before asking your job for reasonable accommodation, you must take every measure you can to treat your own disorder.

I am a co-author of WEITZ ON AUTOMOBILE LITIGATION: THE NO FAULT HANDBOOK. The opinions expressed in this answer are not intended to be taken as legal advice. These opinions are based on New York practice. I may be contacted at 212-553-9300.

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Posted

I was actually having a psychotic depressive episode, not a manic one. I didn't actually literally have to call out, I texted my boss. I go to therapy and take antipsychotics for my condition. This was the first time I called out.

Andrew Lawrence Weitz

Andrew Lawrence Weitz

Posted

Got it. Anti psychotics like risperdal are very effective in treating bipolar disorder as well as psychosis. I understand why you texted instead of called, but perhaps your boss didn't appreciate the modern form of communication. It doesn't seem fair that you were canned for "calling" in sick once, but often the world of at will employment is cruel. I defer to Ms.McCall and Mr. Lebau in the area of employment law and the ADA as it pertains to accommodations for mental illness.

Posted

I would recommend reviewing the EEOC's interpretative guidance on the ADA and mental illness. http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/psych.html

If you are interested in filing a claim, you must contact the EEOC and file a charge of discrimination within 300 days in Maryland (and I would recommend doing so immediately - not waiting).

Intuitively, and while more research would need to be done any attorney willing to take your case, I think your employer cannot fire you for having a mental illness, nor refuse to accommodate it, but I do think your employer can legitimately terminate you for failure to satisfy the essential functions of the job. If your illness was preventing you from performing the essential functions of the job, I do not think that you can recover here.

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Posted

Under the ADA as soon as you inform your employer that you have a disability, they are to engage what the courts calls the "interactive process." This is a discussion about possible accommodation. Now whether the accommodation is reasonable or not is a separate issue. In here, it seems there simply was no engagement in the "interactive process." Depending on how long you have been employed (min a year or longer), there might also be a potential cause of action under the Family Medical Leave Act

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Posted

I agree with Howard. You should check the EEOC guidelines to start then contact an employment attorney in your area to discuss the specifics.

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