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Boss makes employee sick? That’s no disability

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Not every employee will get along with every supervisor. Sometimes, employees actually develop temporary psychological maladies because they believe the boss is unfair or “out to get” them. That’s especially true when a supervisor begins to give an employee poor evaluations and pushes for better performance.

But such conflicts are part of working life.

If every employee who got depressed or anxious after receiving a poor review or trying to satisfy a demanding boss could sue, the courts would have little time for anything else. That may be one reason that courts have been rejecting ADA cases based on stress and anxiety brought on by work conditions.

Recent case: Timothy Maslanka worked for Johnson & Johnson as a sales representative. All went well for a few months, but then things changed.

Maslanka’s supervisor pushed him to make more sales and gave him progressively poorer evaluations. Maslanka was urged to improve and warned that he might be terminated if he did not begin measuring up to expectations.

Instead, Maslanka began falling apart emotionally. Several physicians diagnosed him as suffering from depression and anxiety. Maslanka even missed one meeting with his supervisor because he had a panic attack and instead went to the ER for treatment.

His doctors recommended he not work for the supervisor.

The company eventually fired Maslanka, and he sued, alleging he was terminated because he was disabled.

But the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed his case. The court reasoned that Maslanka’s condition was linked to a supervisor, and therefore didn’t substantially impair a major life function like working or taking care of oneself. (Maslanka v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 08-2329. 3rd Cir., 2008)

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