When does 'I quit' mean 'Help, I’m disabled'? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

When does 'I quit' mean 'Help, I’m disabled'?

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At a minimum, employees today are anxious about losing their jobs. On the extreme, they may be experiencing full-blown clinical depressions. If you know an employee is suffering from depression, don’t be so quick to accept his or her hasty resignation, a new court ruling shows. Instead, you may need to identify this person as “disabled” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, therefore, engage in an “interactive process” to find a work accommodation … 

CASE IN POINT: Marcy Ann Smith, an Iowa state employee, went out on FMLA leave after being diagnosed with depression. A month before she planned to return to work, she experienced a setback due to a family crisis.

Soon after, Smith showed up at work and resigned. But a few days later, she asked to withdraw her resignation. Her employer refused. It said she could apply for other state jobs. All of her other applications were denied.

Smith sued under two federal law...(register to read more)

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle November 29, 2010 at 7:09 pm

This article is NOT saying an employer needs to read the minds of employees or try to diagnose illnesses. It stated she went on FMLA after she was diagnosed with depression so employer was aware of condition. That being the case the employer WAS put on notice of a possible need for ADA accommodation so there should have been some dialogue there. Being that she was already on leave when she showed up at work and quit, I would want to know why and or what the problem was.. Just like if it seems that an employee may need to take FMLA leave there needs to be some discussion. i.e. Hi Tom, I see you’ve been absent a lot, everything alright? or Haven’t seen you in awhile, you feeling okay? Same applies for ADA. Being that employer (the state) knew of condition and denied ALL of her other applications after refusing to allow her to retract resignation reeks of discrimination.


Bill DeGatis November 21, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Nancy, it never ceases to amaze me that management only sees what it wants to. If you read the article, it said she had already gone out on FMLA, which means the employer knew of her condition. Why is it an employee is expected to follow all the rules management sets yet management does not want to follow rules set by Government. Remember, with out employees actually performing the work, there would be no business. In most cases if the employer treats his/her employee’s right, employees will reciprocate. Big business has the advantage of a human recourses dept to adhere to the LAWS. Small businesses must take the time to follow the same guidelines or risk being sued for nothing more than stupidity


Randy November 21, 2008 at 9:03 am

This court decision obviously places a very large burden on employers. It is not realistic to believe every manager in an organization could or should be able to recognize and diagnose depression or any other medical condition. As others have stated above, employers are being asked to read employees minds and intentions, and at the same time warned that it is inappropriate to do that. I’m pro-employee and think employers should do their best to accomodate employees. But this case going to trial crosses the line.


Nancy November 21, 2008 at 8:05 am

Kristine – you are out of touch in attacking Frances! The employer has certain responsibilities to employees, dealing with their job itself, not with personal issues. I understand that some employees may need special accomodations, but employers are just that – employers, not medical care providers! Depression is diagnosed by a doctor, not an employer. Once the doctor lets the individual know what restrictions, etc. if any would apply to their employment, the individual brings the matter to the attention of the employer. Don’t forget, it’s illegal for employers to “assume” an employee has a medical condition such as depression…employers are not permitted to treat (depressed or) any employee differently because they perceive that there is a problem. Employees bear the responsibility to bring their medical situation to the attention of the employer – it’s no the employer’s responsibility to “pry” into the employee’s personal medical conditions.


Erika November 21, 2008 at 7:59 am

The same people who expect their bosses to take care of them are the people who except schools to raise their children. If someone quits, it means they don’t want to work there (for whatever reason). As an employer who has to health of the entire organization to consider, how can you believe that a person who resigned, then reneged, is going to be even remotely dedicated to his/her job? Doesn’t that employer owe something to the other employees of the company to make sure the company as a whole is functioning well? Or is it better to save the one employee who refuses to take personal repsonsibility and potentially sacrifice the entire operation? What about those other employees who are doing their job? In my opinion, the company owes them just as much, if not more, than the individual in question.

Also, you would do well to remember that most employers are not licensed mental health care professionals and would be reckless in trying to counsel a person experiencing issues.


Kristine November 20, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Not everyone HAS family and friends, and even when they do, the F/F may not have the awareness to ‘see’ or address depression or other mental illnesses. Depression is often difficult for even trained professionals to diagnose. Employers DO have an obligtion to their employees. The concept of “personal responsibility” may not be in play when an employee is experiencing mental illness. The ‘tone’ of your response is very harsh. I’m glad you’re not MY employer.


Frances Ruby November 20, 2008 at 6:16 pm

This case points up why the ADA is such a poor law. Why has business become the caretaker of its workers? Employees are individuals who should make their own decisions and take care of themselves. They have a contract with their employer to perform certain tasks and receive an agreed upon compensation package. Where is this woman’s family and friends? Is everyone in her circle of influence also depressed so no one recognized the symptoms and suggested she may want to see a doctor? Why is it up to her employer (who rightfully knows far less about her personal life than those in her life) to watch out for her? Where is personal responsibility?


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