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Can You Fire an Employee for Threatening Suicide?

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Suicide ranks as the 11th leading cause of death in the United States and it peaks around this time of year. So what do you do if you learn one of your employees brandished a gun and threatened suicide, but a doctor released him back to work in a week? Shouldn’t you be concerned about safety? One court warned, “a doctor’s note… is a doctor’s note” and terminating that worker could spark an ADA claim …

Case in Point: One day after work, an executive at a North Dakota bank had about 10 to 12 drinks and then drove to a cemetery. He pulled out a gun to kill himself. His sister arrived. He threatened to kill her first if she didn’t leave. Eventually the police came and took him to the hospital where he was admitted for four days of psychiatric care.

Immediately after the employee was discharged from the hospital, his doctor signed a certification that said he could resume all of his work duties in a week. Bank offici...(register to read more)

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Glenna March 19, 2010 at 9:50 am

I think that is teh advantage of having a specialist do the fitness for duty exam. In the event they release the employee to return to work and then an incident occurs at least the employer could show they used due diligence.


Kim March 19, 2010 at 9:27 am

What happens when this employee decides to commit suicide and take a few fellow employees with him? You don’t think that the employer is going to be faced with lawsuits from those employees’ families for allowing the employee to keep working? Employers have no way to win.


Glenna March 18, 2010 at 3:33 pm

We have had two somewhat similar situations here over the years, both times involving law enforcment officers. We located a mental health provider who specializes in “fitness for duty” exams and can offer an opinion as to the employee’s ability to perform the job. Our policy is to place the employee on paid leave until the results of the fitness for duty exam are received. One employee returned to work immediately with no further problems. One was placed on FMLA leave until he completed a course of treatment recommended by the doctor and then returned to work. I think the key is to find a doctor who specializes in this issue and to request a “fitness for duty” exam. I tell the supervisors just to think of it the same as they would an employee who is exhibiting physical medical problems.


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