I have a situation that I would like some feedback on. Especially since you understand/experience the what I battle daily, Bipolar Disorder.I was hired by a corporation in July 2011 just after graduating college. I am very qualified for the position and never had any problems complaints about my work, performance etc. Of course when I was hired I did not inform them of my disorder for fear of consequences.Around the middle of September 2011, I had a severe panic attack at the office and had to leave. I was out the 2 days following. Since then I had not had any major episodes that affected my work. Well, until the beginning of February 2012. Prior to that in January my daughter was very sick and I had to be home with her, which management had no problem with. So in February I had a very extreme episode and had to call in to work on a Monday after a very, very long exhausting weekend of ups and downs. I saw the doctor on that Monday and referred me to a new psychiatrist and counselor. On Tuesday I went in and was barely holding myself together. I decided to inform my department manager of my disorder. After speaking with her she thought it be best that I leave and go home and “take care of myself and not to worry about my job, it was secure.” I began to feel much better and went back on Friday, at which time the Office Manage also informed me that “my job was secure, do not allow yourself to worry yourself to death about that, concentrate on you.”The following week was horrible, at my emergency psych appointment he informed me that continuing to work at this time was not in my best interest and to ask for a leave of absence. So I requested a leave of absence to the Department Manager and Office manager. I heard no response, no email, no phone call, nothing. i continued to call in and email informing of my absence and also inquiring of the leave of absence and if/what I need to do for this. No response was received until Feb 29th from the Director of HR at headquarters saying I do not qualify for FMLA leave of absence because of not being employed with the corporation for a year. And since my job requires me to be present everyday I will be terminated. I received my official termination letter 4 days ago.I feel like I was not treated fairly since I was assured by both managers about my job and was told by psych not to work for a short time. Can someone give me some feedback, opinions, similar experiences, personal advice? Sorry for such a long post, I just wanted to explain the whole situation.
I can relate to and understand how you are feeling very much!!!!! I too have been off of work now since the end of January due to a down cycle in my bipolar. For the first 12 weeks, I was off work under the Family Medical Leave Act, but wondering if my job is still going to be there for me when my doctor says I am able to go back to work is definitely a concern of mine. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to receive a termination notice though, so I wonder is that something I should prepare for?
WELL, this is not an easy yes or no. Sadly, your employer is correct in saying you must be employed by them for 12 months to be eligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (which is the requirement according to the United States Department of Labor). I have been employed by my employer for almost 5 years, so that is why I was eligible for the leave. (To see the full terms of the Family Medical Leave Act, here is the link to the Act on the U.S. Dept of Labor website http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/fmla.htm ) It totally stinks, I know, because we aren’t able to control whether or not we have our ups and downs within the first 12 months of starting our new job. If we could control that then we would be able to control when we have them at all and wouldn’t that be almost like a cure?!!!!
In this day and age, almost all employment is considered “at will employment” which means that you can be terminated at any time and the employer does not have to give you a reason for the termination. Unless you sign a contract for certain conditions of employment and such, then they have the right to terminate you, HOWEVER, I would still seek the advice of a disability attorney. As far as your employers assurances and promises about your job being held for you, do you have any of these in writing? Were any of them sent in an email or a letter from the office? If you have written communications from your employer with the assurances to not worry about your job, I would definitely bring those to the attorney. I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY, SO I CAN NOT GIVE YOU LEGAL ADVICE ON THIS AND NONE OF THIS IS LEGAL ADVICE, JUST SUGGESTIONS. You might have a claim for wrongful termination based on discrimination, but only an attorney can determine that by giving them the facts of your specific instance.
While I have not been terminated from my employment as of yet, I have gone from leave under the Family Medical Leave Act to long-term disability and am becoming wary of how long it will be before they terminate me, if that ends up happening. Employers can not fire us because we “have bipolar disorder” because that would violate the Americans With Disabilities Act, however, just because we have what is considered a disability, it does not mean that we can not get fired at all. If the reason is completely unrelated to our bipolar disorder, then we can be fired. I would definitely refer you to the disability attorney to determine if the reasons that your employer gave you for your termination were not in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Having bipolar while in the workplace is not an easy thing. As if managing our illness didn’t bring on enough stressors, add employers and their willingness and ability to tolerate the necessary accommodations we need without deciding that terminating us is the easier route. Sometimes surviving one day at the office would feel like I just climbed Mt. Everest, sometimes I could go weeks or months without any symptoms. But regardless of that, I still had a down swing that knocked me out and I’m still recovering and the last thing that I want to be worrying about is my job. I want to be worrying about my health. Employers may not have first hand experience with an individual with bipolar disorder so they may not understand what it is all about and what exactly it entails from them. Some see it as an extreme liability and that is the type of attitude that can cause employment issues like wrongful termination.
I do hope you can find some resolution to your own situation by seeking the advice of an attorney. Most attorneys will provide a free consultation to determine if your employer did, in fact, fire you illegally. It may not provide instant relief to your situation, but its a start. And know that you are not alone in this type of predicament. I am sitting here myself worried about my own fate as it pertains to my employment and I assure you that there are many others out there doing the same or in a similar situation to yours. All we can do is our best to get ourselves back to our stable and healthy place and go from there, one day at a time.