Many New Yorkers struggle with mental illness. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act and other employment discrimination laws, an employer cannot fire you because you suffer from a mental health condition. To the contrary, the ADA requires all employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” upon request so that you are able to do your job in spite of your condition.
Judge Rules Stalking Conviction Legitimate Grounds for Terminating Employee
The ADA does not require employers to accommodate or retain employees who pose a “direct threat” to the safety of other workers or members of the public. In other words, while an employer cannot fire you because you have a mental illness, you can be fired if your illness causes you to do things that make the workplace environment unsafe for others.
Here is an illustration from a recent decision by a federal judge in Brooklyn. The plaintiff in this case previously worked as a financial advisor for a large investment services firm. During the course of his employment, the plaintiff was arrested for stalking a woman who represented one of the firm's vendors. When he subsequently violated a restraining order obtained by the woman, the plaintiff was sentenced to five months in jail.
According to the plaintiff, he suffered a “psychotic break” that caused him to hear voices and suffer “severe and continuous delusions.” This, in turn, led to his stalking. As a condition of his criminal plea, he successfully completed psychiatric treatment. During this time, the employer placed the plaintiff on extended disability leave.
Once the leave expired, the plaintiff asked to return to his job. The employer declined and terminated him instead, explaining that his stalking and subsequent criminal conviction “violated the Firm's Harassment-Free Workplace Policy.” The plaintiff then sued the employer under the ADA, alleging discrimination based on his prior mental illness.
The employer moved for summary judgment, which the court granted in a June 22 order. While the judge acknowledged the “extreme hardship” caused by the plaintiff's disability and commended him for his “recovery and fortitude,” as a matter of law the employer did nothing wrong. Indeed, the judge said the plaintiff “misunderstands and profoundly overstates the scope of the ADA's protections.”
Simply put, the plaintiff's “egregiously harassing conduct” gave the employer a “legitimate reason to fire him even though his delusions may have caused his conduct.” Citing an earlier ruling by now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the judge said that an employee's mental illness “does not immunize [him] from discipline or discharge for incidents of misconduct in the workplace.” The ADA protects an employee from retaliation based on status, not conduct.
Get Help From a New York Disability Discrimination Lawyer
The plaintiff in this case may have also suffered by deciding to represent himself without the assistance of an attorney. Employment discrimination lawsuits are difficult to win even under the best of circumstances. This is why you should always work with a qualified New York employment law attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar if you have been the victim of discrimination and need to speak with a lawyer right away.