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Employees have to pick: ADA or state disability discrimination law

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

Good news for employers: Employees who claim disability discrimination can’t sue under both state and federal laws. They have to choose whether to sue under the ADA or the North Carolina Persons With Disabilities Protection Act (NCPDPA).

Recent case: Matthew Magidson went to work for Wachovia Bank as an international swaps and derivatives associate. Soon the bank promoted him to vice president of fixed income derivatives. After a few years, he developed generalized anxiety disorder, a psychological condition characterized by excessive worry about a variety of everyday problems and the need to complain.

His co-workers and supervisors were unmoved by his plight, and started a campaign of belittlement. One co-worker even put a “whine jar” on her desk, and every time Magidson complained, she told him to put money in the jar. It wasn’t until Magidson had a nervous breakdown that anyone even notified the HR office about possible accommodations.

Magidson sued under both the ADA and the NCPDPA. But the court tossed out his state claim, concluding the law is clear that employees have to pick either state or federal law to sue under. (Magidson v. Wachovia Bank, No. 1:07-CV-505, MD NC, 2007)

Final note: Magidson also lost on his state emotional distress claims. Although the court said the behavior at Wachovia was distasteful and shouldn’t happen in the workplace, it wasn’t outrageous enough to support a separate emotional distress claim. The federal ADA case now will go forward.

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