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.