PTSD

Question:

My husband fought for our country during two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He had a struggle finding a job because all his work experience was military. Once he found a job, he gave it his all.

I know he always got to work ahead of time and worked hard, because he came home exhausted. He often worked through lunch without claiming overtime. His supervisor gave my husband many compliments, saying he “worked rings around everyone else.”

Several weeks ago, just before his 90-day review, my husband was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. His doctor said he needed a month off from work and counseling. The company didn’t offer sick pay so my husband asked for leave without pay.

He was terminated the next day. His supervisor said he was sorry but the decision was made above his head and probationary employees didn’t have any rights. He was “employed at will.”

Answer:

Probationary employees do have rights. Unless you’re leaving out part of the story, like violent episodes at work, the employer terminated your husband because he needed a four-week leave. PTSD qualifies as a disability, giving your husband protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA’s protection against illegal discrimination trumps employment at will. Your husband can call the Alaska State Commission on Human Rights or the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission for assistance.

When a doctor told a former U.S. Marine suffering from PTSD to ask for six weeks of medical leave without pay during his 90-day probationary period, his company denied it. The employee, Adam Brant, appealed to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ruled he had the right to unpaid leave unless the leave created an undue hardship for the company. The company, EZEFLOW, settled with Brant for $65,000.

Your husband’s employer needs to talk with him in what’s called an interactive process, the outcome of which is based on several factors including the employer’s ability to handle a month-long absence and your husband’s ability to perform his job. Your husband can also get help from a number of programs set up to help veterans secure and keep jobs.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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