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Court: Discipline OK if disabled worker makes threats

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

It’s been an open question whether Cali­for­nia’s Fair Employment and Hous­ing Act allows employers to punish a mentally ill employee whose disease makes her act out. Now the answer is clear: You can punish mentally disabled employees for threats or violence against co-workers.

Recent case: Linda Wills is bipolar and has manic episodes during which she behaves erratically. During one episode, she became angry when a co-worker didn’t open a door fast enough. She allegedly threatened to put the co-worker on her “Kill Bill” list.

Wills was fired and sued, alleging she had been manic at the time and couldn’t be blamed for the outburst.

The court disagreed, pointing out that violating a rule against threats or violence is inexcusable, whether caused by a disability or not. (Wills v. Superior Court, No. G043054, Court of Appeal of California, 4th Appellate Division, 2011)

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