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Can your employer fire you after you attempt suicide?

On Behalf of | Jan 21, 2022 | Employee Rights |

You have protection from workplace discrimination based on factors outside of your control, such as your gender and your race. Medical issues, both those that you have had since birth and those you develop later in life, are also often protected characteristics that should not impact employment decisions.

Unlike many medical issues, mental health conditions may not produce any symptoms that other people notice. You won’t have a cough or other obvious signs of the inward suffering you experience. Mental health issues ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder and extreme anxiety to long-term depression can lead to extreme internal discomfort, and some people feel like the only way to escape their suffering is to end their lives.

Attempting suicide can be the culmination of the symptoms of a mental health issue or the turning point that forces someone to seek professional help. Could your employer fire you for a suicide attempt if it was a consequence of a disabling mental health disorder?

Workers with diagnosed medical conditions have some protection

Both federal law and New Jersey state policy prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals based on their health conditions. Provided that someone is still capable of performing all of the basic job responsibilities with accommodations, their mental health diagnosis should not factor into any employment decisions made by a company.

Unfortunately, some businesses will be able to use a suicide attempt as an excuse for its termination. If you require an extended leave of absence but do not qualify for paid time off or unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, your employer could use a leave of absence to justify ending your employment. In scenarios that involved an incident at your place of employment, there could be disciplinary consequences for that as well.

However, if an employee notifies a company of their health issues and asks for accommodations or a leave of absence while they address their mental health issues, firing them anyway could be an act of discrimination.

How do you prove a termination was discriminatory?

If you believe that your employer unjustly considered your mental health struggles or a previous suicide attempt when they made the decision to terminate you, you may have grounds for a discrimination claim against your employer, as firing you for a disabling medical condition is a violation of your right.

Learning more about disability discrimination and mental health protections can help you stand up for yourself after lengthy struggles with your mental health.