In tough cases, safety first: Attempted suicide at work grounds for discharge

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in Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employers don’t have to put up with employees who pose a safety hazard to others—or themselves. While suicidal behavior may indicate an employee is suffering from a serious health condition under the FMLA or a disability under the ADA, it isn’t an excuse for violating safety rules.

Recent case: Horace Rainey worked for Aaron Rents as a parts technician, delivering and setting up furniture in customers’ homes. While at the store, an agitated Rainey was discussing his girlfriend and told a co-worker he was going to “kill the bitch.” He had to be restrained by a co-worker until he calmed down.

A little later, Rainey wrapped duct tape around his neck. His co-workers pulled it off. Then, after going into a back room, he took a truck strap, tied it to the ceiling, wrapped it around his neck and hanged himself from the ceiling. He passed out, but was saved by quick action from co-workers, who cut him down and revived him. They called 911 and Rainey was hospitalized.

The company put him on paid leave and then terminated him when he said he was ready to come back to work.

Rainey sued, alleging retaliation and interference with FMLA leave.

The court tossed out his case. It bought Aaron Rents’ argument that it would have fired Rainey whether he took leave or not because his violent behavior broke company safety and behavior rules and created potential liability. (Rainey v. Aaron Rents, No. 8:08-CV-2103, MD FL, 2009)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gary Abbott June 2, 2013 at 7:51 am

Good read.

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