Payday Lender Ordered to Pay $56,500 for Firing Employee with Bipolar Disorder
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits unfavorable treatment of qualified employees with disabilities because of their disabilities. Recently, the EEOC prevailed in one of its first trials involving discrimination against an employee with bipolar disorder.
The court found that the employer, which owns and operates a chain of payday stores, fired the employee because it thought the employee was too disabled to work, and that the company’s stated reasons for firing the employee were pretexts used to cover up discrimination.
Initially, the employee had been very successful within the company. Within a few months of being hired as an assistant manager, he was promoted to store manager and received an award for his store’s success. Several months after that, he asked for a short leave to adjust to a new prescription medication used to treat his bipolar disorder. According to the employee, the employer denied his request, forcing him to return to work too soon. ,He was fired shortly after that.
An EEOC spokesperson said, “The court sent an important message today that employers can’t substitute fiction for facts when making employment decisions about disabled workers. Employers acting on outdated myths and fears about disabilities need to know that the EEOC will not shy away from taking ADA cases to trial to bring them into the 21st century.”
The court entered a judgment of $6,500 for back wages and $50,000 for emotional pain and suffering, as well as ordering the company to train its managers and HR staff on anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws.
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