Job Termination/Discrimination for FMLA for Bipolar Affective Disorder


In my previous post, I explained the circumstances behind my termination of employment.  No one was more surprised and shocked by this action than me.  All of my co-workers were shocked as well.  I was inundated with emails from co-workers asking me what the hell was up?  I truly could not believe the reason stated for my dismissal.  And, previously I mentioned there was a change in atmosphere after returning from my FMLA medical leave in December for treatment and hospitalization for a serious bout of depression.  I knew deep down in my heart that this was the reason for my dismissal.  My sister-in-law has been the Director of Human Resources for a mid-size manufacturing company for over 20 years.  I forwarded to her the offending email that got me fired and quoted the termination letter paragraph siting the Handbook Code violation and requested her professional opinion.  I also expressed my belief that I was truly let go because of my bipolar disorder, which, of course, is illegal.  Her opinion was the same as mine and absolutely everyone else I presented my situation too.  She gave me some recommendations as to how to respond to the company to be sure I was eligible for unemployment and regarding future references, etc.  Later that same day, I sent a very detailed email to the HR Director who terminated me and my boss (VP Corporate Development and part owner) outlining my belief that I was discriminated against due to FMLA medical leave taken for bipolar affective disorder.  I also sent everything to my attorney.

In this email, I referenced my last performance evaluation conducted by my boss, VP Corporate Development and part owner of the company, completed in November 2011.  Prior to my evaluation, I suggested to my boss that I solicit input from various other parties and departments that I regularly support and that he had no knowledge of.  He felt this was a good idea.  My fellow coworkers sent glowing recommendations from the Quality Manager, Purchasing Agent, CEO, EH&S Coordinator and several salesmen to my boss highlighting specific special projects I had performed for them over the past year and what an outstanding job I did.  Like all previous performance evaluations, I was rated between Very Satisfactory to Outstanding, with suggestions for continuous improvement.  There were no negative comments or complaints sited.

My attorney called me back and I made an appointment to see him the following morning.  I was fired on a Wednesday.

On Thursday morning there was an email response from my former employer, HR Director, in response to my email sent the previous day siting discrimination for FMLA. Attached was a comprehensive “Release and Severance Agreement.”  Under this agreement the Company would pay 12 months of COBRA Health Insurance premiums and maintain coverage at the same level of coverage for myself and husband, as well as the vision and dental (premiums are $1,049.00/month).  It further stated that the Company would not contest my claim for unemployment insurance benefits.  In return for these considerations were six pages of terms and conditions where I would “never” or “forever” hold the Company harmless and forgo my rights to trial by jury and numerous other protections afforded the Company (specifically calling out Federal Family and Medical Leave Act “FMLA”).  The following is an example of the verbiage used:

“As a material inducement to Company and Employee to enter into this Agreement, Employee for herself and her personal representatives, irrevocably and unconditionally waives and releases forever, with prejudice, Company and its officers, directors, shareholders, employees, employee benefit plans (including their fiduciaries and administrators) and agents (collectively Released Parties), and the Released Parties irrevocably and unconditionally waive and release forever, with prejudice.  Employee and her heirs, agents, assigns, transferees and personal representatives, from any and all charges, complaints, claims, liabilities, obligations, promises, agreements, controversies, damages, actions, suits, rights, demands, costs, losses, debts and expenses (including attorney’s fees and costs actually incurred) of any nature, whether sounding in contract, tort or other theory, known and unknown, suspected or unsuspected that have or may have arisen through this date (collectively, Claims), including but not limited to, rights under federal, state or local laws prohibiting handicap/disability, age, race, sex or other forms of discrimination, including by way of illustration and not limitation, claims or rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Federal Family and Medical leave Act and any and all other labor and employment statues or other Claims growing out of the restrictions on the rights of Company to hire or terminate its employees, but excluding any Claims arising from or relating to either: (i) any fraud or dishonesty by Employee or (ii) the breach of this Agreement.”

Holy cow!!! That is all one sentence.  Definitely written by an attorney.  The Agreement goes on for six more pages like that.  My attorney advised that it wasn’t written for my benefit (even though that is how the Company presented it), it is drafting to protect “The Company.”  I am also bound by strict confidentiality not to disclose any information regarding the Agreement, or that the Agreement itself even exists, so I cannot say anymore.

Well, okay.  So now I have some real heavy thinking to do.  My attorney feels I would have enough objections to raise a suit, but the real question comes down to;  Can I survive the next year or year and half while this thing goes to court or settles?  And the answer is, “no.”  The cost of my psych meds alone would break me.  Not to  mention the frequent P-Doc and therapist visits.  I did want to add (i) that they deem my departure from the Company as being laid off, and (ii) that they provide me with a written letter of reference.  I have never been fired before.  I have excellent references from each of my former employers.  But my attorney advised that if I make any type of counter-offer, it basically makes their original offer null and void and they could rescind it completely.  I asked if there was anything in the Agreement that would prevent me for asking for these things after the Agreement was executed, and the answer was, “no.”   So, if I add up the maximum weekly unemployment benefit, plus 12 months of health insurance premiums, it comes out to around $30,588.  So I accepted the Release and Severance Agreement as presented and returned it via overnight FedEx.  The Agreement allowed 21 days’ time for consideration, but once my mind was made up, I wanted it signed, sealed and delivered asap.

That was two months ago.  I have since been in one of the deepest, darkest, longest horrible depression I can ever remember.  The trigger was job loss, but the net result to me was major trauma.  In addition to my bipolar diagnosis, the therapist and P-Doc I now see diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  This conclusion was reached based on the brief history I provided from my childhood.  Basically, take the book “Sybil” and the book “A Child Called It” and you have my childhood.   Extreme neglect, poverty, pain, physical, verbal and sexual abuse.  I have also been experiencing extreme anger and thoughts of retribution against my former employer and his family.  This is something new.  My insomnia and nightmares are so bad that I am afraid to go to sleep.  So I manage on 0-2 hours a night right now.  All my psych meds have been bumped up to maximum therapeutic range.  My current meds are:

  • Geodon – 80mg twice a day
  • Lamictal – 200mg a day
  • Prozac – 50mg a day
  • Wellbutrin SR – 150mg twice a day
  • Valium – 10mg three times a day p.r.n.
  • Synthroid (Hypothyroidism) – 200mcg day
  • Ambien (Insomnia) – 10mg day
  • Nuvigil (For mornings after no sleep) 150mg day p.r.n.
  • Flexeril (Pain Management) – 10mg three times a day
  • MS Contin (Pain Management) – 60mg twice a day
  • Vicodin (Pain Management) – 750/325mg three times a day p.r.n. for breakthrough pain
  • Relistor (Gastroenterologist) – 6ml injection every other day

I am being treated under Pain Management for chronic pain, mostly lower back.  I have degenerative disc disease at L4, L5 and arthritis at T10, T11; two right shoulder surgeries that is very painful; and fibromyalgia.   This whole topic of pain with depression is for another day.  It is a catch 22 between pain causing depression and the depression making the pain worse.

Enough for today.  There is probably some social media networking blog rule that limits the length of posts???  I don’t write often, therefore, I feel comfortable writing long.

Next up …. Unemployment, Psychiatric Treatment Options, and/or Social Security Disability.

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8 comments on “Job Termination/Discrimination for FMLA for Bipolar Affective Disorder

  1. spare parts says:

    It’s really a great and useful piece of information. I’m satisfied that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I have lived severe depressive disorders, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and insomnia for years. I’ve tried Cymbalta, Paxil, and Effexor. In recent weeks, my psychiatrist prescribed Prozac, Ambien, Abilify, and Xanax. This combination seems to work efficiently, although I still have severe insomnia anymore. I’m hoping he are able to say some-thing used in combination with the Ambien or improve the dose; or, the symptoms have rapidly decreased for me.
    This site help me a lot http://www.about-depression.net/depression-medication-and-therapy/

    • Dear Depression Med,

      First, If you are actually reading this, I apologize for taking so long to reply. I don’t have a set schedule for addressing this blog. My personal blog and business blogs I do daily and weekly respectively.

      I have tried, used, abused, and over 40 different medications and combination of medications over the years. It is REALLY IMPORTANT the YOU keep track of all the meds you are on, when, dosage and the effect or side effects. Doctors basically use the most common drugs first with the least side effects and then “see what happens.” It is no great magical cure or a one-size-fits-all deal. Please don’t rely on your psychiatrist alone to manage your medications. The best advice I can give you is to educate yourself. Do your own research. Also, a good pharmacist is essential.

      With regard to your question regarding insomnia, I would need more information as to the cause or “type” of insomnia you are having. If you can’t fall asleep it is different if you can fall asleep but then wake up and can’t get back to sleep. Is the insomnia medication induced by any of the anti-depressants? Do you have a sleep disorder? And so on …

      I can offer you some basic “friendly” advice that shouldn’t be harmful. Make sure you get some exercise. I don’t care how and I know it sucks and you probably don’t want to do it (thats how I feel). But it comes down to what do you want more, sleep or to exercise and then sleep? Also, you can try adding herbal remedies like melatonin and ? ? ? ? (just wait it will come to me ? ? ). Well, I cant think of the other one right now, but if you go to a GNC store or believe in homeopathic healing they can be great resources with very little risk with your current meds. Be sure to tell your P-Doc whatever you do. Sleep deprivation can actually cause depression and make a current depressive episode much worse than it has to be.

      In my case, I’ve been through two sleep clinics, biofeedback health, herbal remedies (THC is also by the way), and of course the synthetic drugs. Ambien is good (and Ambien CR depending on your habits) but you become used to it rather quickly and it becomes less effective. I have my own methods of getting sleep, but I would NEVER tell anyone about them. My metabolism and high tolerance for narcotics is so high that what I take on a normal day would kill the average person. So please be safe my friend. Be sure to share your concerns with your doctor and therapist. And most of all, get some fresh air. Just breath.

      Thank you for listening. Come again.

      Take care and may God bless you and yours,
      Love Belle

  3. I had been through severe depressive disorders, anxiety, panic disorder, and insomnia for long. I’ve tested Cymbalta, Paxil, and Effexor. In recent times, my psychiatrist suggested Prozac, Ambien, Abilify, and Xanax. This mix appears to work quite well, although I still have severe insomnia anymore. I’m hoping he could explain some thing used in combination with the Ambien or increase the quantity; otherwise, the signs and symptoms have rapidly minimised for me.
    This site help me too much http://www.about-depression.net/about-depression/

  4. Heather says:

    I have had a similar situation happen to myself with my long term job that I got fired for last month. Can you please send me a sample letter of the letter you sent your company. You have been a great inspiration to me.

    • Hi There I am so sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I will be happy to share the letter I wrote to my former employer and the subsequent settelment and severance package I received. i hope to find the time this weekend.

      thanks for visiting my site. I have a TON of stuff to update, just gotta find the time. But I love blogging.

      Any way, take care and may God bless you, Linda Thanks and Have a Great Day, Linda F. Herrmann Email: LindaHerrmannF@yahoo.com

      >________________________________

  5. Woah this web site is astounding i love researching the articles you write. Keep up to date the truly great paintings! You realize, plenty of men and women feel the need circular in this information and facts, you can aid these individuals drastically.

  6. Kristin Lydy says:

    I have bi polar and struggle with depression and anxiety pretty bad. I’m currently approved for FMLA and suspended for using it. Yup you read that right.

    About a year ago i was forthcoming about having Bi Polar with my job. They have been very insensitive about my needs. I utilized the ADA to inforced reasonable accomdations until I qualified for FMLA. Because of my meds my cycles aren’t quite as bad so I’m allowed up to 4 days off a month. I hear that is peanuts compared to what others with Bi Polar get but i don’t usually need more time than that when on my meds, plus I can’t really afford to take more time than that.

    However since I’ve been forthcoming about my mental disability my job has been relentlessly harassing me. Well, in my opinion I feel like they’ve been harassing me. People treat me differently. They call me part timer and give me crap for being gone. They say things like ” I wish I had a vacation day every week.” or “it must be nice to take that much time off work and not get fired.” Ya cuz being trapped in your own head, tormenting yourself, or loathing your very existence to the point of suicide is a great time!

    And if the chemical imbalance in my head isn’t enough than I get to worry about triggers. Oh joy. And lately… my work has been the biggest trigger. My supervisors and many other employees are always making those comments i mentioned previously. But they are always giving me crap jobs or riding my butt about everything. I had one supervisor scream at me infront of the entire department. Everyone was watching. It was so embarrassing and completely through me into a tizzy.

    And if all that isn’t bad enough… My family doctor told me he can’t be my doctor any more because of non payment ( we experienced a lot of lay offs company wide too! So i was broke.) and I’m running out of my meds. I had apts set up but they were canceled and so I called in using FMLA days aug 19th and 20th.

    Consumed with anxiety and emotion I called a friend and made plans. My action plan tells me not sit at home alone but rather surround myself with friends and family. So I did. She and I watched movies, had lunch, went to the zoo, etc. Not thinking I was doing anything wrong, I posted pictures of the two of us, in her living-room, on my private Facebook. Apparently my job found access to my private account and screen shot my facebook post of me drinking from a glass and my friend cuddling with her cat.

    They have since pulled me into their office nearly every day to integrate me and tell me that they think I’m a liar and that I’m being investigated. In the mean time i am suspended for 10 days pending further investigation.

    I work for a Union shop and the union is helping me but I’m afraid that their assistance can only take me so far. I need advise. Do I have a harassment and or discrimination case? What do I need to do?

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