by Eric B. Meyer
Originally published: August 4, 2016
My skin crawls thinking about the Google search terms that will land some HR professionals on this post, which involves a failed suicide attempt. Hopefully, this is not a practice tip upon which you’ll need to draw in the course of your HR career.
But, just in case…
In a recent opinion, the Seventh Circuit in Felix v. Wisconsin Department of Transportation, dug into the nuances of the Rehabilitation Act (basically, the federal sector version of the Americans with Disabilities Act) by contrasting the “direct threat” defense with an employee whose actions at work threaten themselves or others. I’ll get to that in a bit.
But first, the facts of the case.
The plaintiff in Felix suffered from mental illness. One day at work, she suffered a severe panic attack, during which she attempted to cut her wrists and repeatedly said she wanted to die. Thereafter, the plaintiff was sent for an independent medical exam (IME). The doctor concluded that the plaintiff remained at increased risk for potentially violent behavior toward self and others within the workplace. The employer determined that the plaintiff was unfit for continued employment and terminated her on that basis.