This is great. Guy gets fired because he needs a few days off to get himself back on track, takes his employer to court for ADA violation, wins. In the meantime he goes back to college and gets a degree in physical sciences. No dummy, and quite functional.
I love this. On the other hand, there are so many people with bipolar disease and other mental illnesses who are too sick to advocate for themselves the way this guy did. Most of us would not have the focus, orientation, drive, or even enough positive self image to search out a proper lawyer and sue the bastards.
Lawyers usually want to be paid for their services. Some will take a case on contingency, so that they get paid a percentage of the settlement if they win the case. Therefore they will only take the case if they are very sure they will win.
I am not aware of any advocacy organization that helps people with mental illness who have lost their jobs or been denied employment due to their disabilities. If any of you, dear readers, know of such a thing, please educate me and everybody else who reads this blog. What we need is a one-phone-call hotline that can match people who have been discriminated against with appropriate legal resources.
I’m sure that if this were the case, employers would be much more careful about discriminating against people with mental illness, especially when the people in question are perfectly capable of doing the job in question. Yes, we may need some accommodation, such as sick day allowances, but this certainly does not differ from the needs of anyone with a chronic illness of any kind.
It’s true that there is discrimination against people with chronic diseases of the “physical” kind. I know of people with kidney disease who need to go to dialysis two or three times a week, who have been terminated from their jobs. True, they are physically incapable of holding down a 40 hour a week job, but there are many cases where part time positions have been available yet the persons were denied. Of course the reasons for denial are trumped up, because it is officially illegal to deny someone employment strictly on the basis of a disability, as long as they are capable of performing the tasks of the job.
The result of the denial of employment to people with mental and physical illness is the staggering epidemic of people on disability. As a person who relies on disability payments for my livelihood, one would think that I would be the last person to complain. However, if my work environment and the culture of my profession were tolerant of my needs to attend therapy, observe regular working hours rather than shift work and an 80 hour work week, and take a day or two off every once in a while (and by this I mean every 6 or 8 months) to get my center of balance back under me, I would still be working.
However, the world of medical doctors is built upon a mythology of superiority: physical, intellectual, and psychological. Thus, medical residents are subjected to the hazing ritual of 36 hour shifts and 120 hour work weeks. If you survive that, you are welcomed into the hallowed halls of the elite.
I will never forget running into one of my former teachers at a medical conference, long after I had graduated and was running a large pediatric emergency center. She asked me how I was doing. I replied, “To tell you the truth, I’ve been suffering a bit from depression.” Her face closed up as if a curtain had come down. She turned on her heel and walked off without saying a word. From that moment I knew that having a mental illness was taboo in “our world,” and I never mentioned it again, to my great detriment.
A few years later, a colleague who worked alongside me came up to me and whispered that he was feeling a bit depressed, and could I write him a prescription? This was a man who was an Air Force veteran of the first Gulf War. He had headed up a commando unit that had rescued premature babies from a hospital in Kuwait that had been occupied and all the doctors and nurses killed. He was a hero of the highest order.
I told him I would give him a week’s worth of Prozac on the strict condition that he see a psychiatrist. He said he was afraid that the administration would find out and fire him. I told him he had no choice but to see a psychiatrist, and that I would keep an eye on him and make sure he did.
The following week I was called in to work early, to cover this young doctor’s shift. He had locked himself in a motel room and shot himself, because he was depressed and felt helpless and hopeless, and he was afraid of losing his job because of his condition. It was a senseless tragedy, a loss of a wonderful human being and a brilliant doctor, because of a hostile professional culture.
I’m looking forward to seeing an article in the paper about a physician successfully suing their employer for discrimination against them due to mental illness.