A Florida-based electronic manufacturer was found to have violated federal law in their response to the needs of an employee according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Details of the Case
Interconnect Cable Technology Corporate (ICTC) reportedly demoted and later discharged an employee after her mental illness lead to hospitalization. The employee in question worked for ICTC for more than 20 years where she was promoted repeatedly and held a variety of positions. She was hospitalized and subsequently diagnosed with major depressive disorder and when she returned to work the following week, ICTC’s CFO immediately stripped the employee of her job duties, then demoted her and cut her pay. A few months later, she was fired.
The EEOC’s lawsuit claims that mental illness is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and they seek back pay as well as compensatory and punitive damages for the impacted employee. Additionally, the lawsuit also seeks to prevent and correct disability discrimination which will result in the training of ICTC’s managers and supervisors about federal equal employment opportunity laws.
Stigma and Discrimination
Mental illness continues to be a disability that many don’t understand or know how to effectively respond to. Employers can help by staying up to date on discrimination laws and implementing policies and a company culture that excludes discriminatory behavior. While there have been no details revealed about ICTC’s direct concerns related to this employee’s situation, the timeline indicates a direct response to her hospitalization.
Reminder for Employers
While mental illness can provide certain concerns for employers, it’s important to understand that these diagnoses do not necessarily translate to a direct impact on job functioning. This employee had a long line of promotions and history with the company, demonstrating her abilities and successes.
Discrimination cases, whether related to mental or physical disabilities, are on the rise. Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami Distract said “The Americans with Disabilities Act celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Unfortunately, the number of disability discrimination charged filed annually with the EEOC rose last year.” He went on to say “the EEOC continues, with this suit, to seek vigorous enforcement of the laws that protect people from this kind of intentional and harmful discrimination.”
Regardless of popular sentiment over certain disabilities, employers remain responsible for acting within the perimeters of the law. So a helpful reminder to employers is to ensure their policies are in line with federal law and that all employees, especially those responsible for managing personnel, are informed about the behaviors permissible under these laws.
If you’re experiencing discrimination at work due to mental illness or physical disability, please know you have our support. No one should experience discrimination on these basis at work, or anywhere. Allow us to share some tips that may be able to help. No one should feel silenced when advocating for themselves at work and there are steps you can take to protect yourself. See if our strategies for handling workplace discrimination provide any guidance.