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Employment Blog

A recent decision by an appellate court in California held that the inability of an employee to work with a particular supervisor because of anxiety and stress caused by oversight from the supervisor was not a disability under California Disability Discrimination Law.  As a result, the company did not discriminate against an employee who was terminated for a number of performance reasons even though her physician diagnosed the employee as having “adjustment disorder with anxiety.” 

In this case, the employee alleged she suffered from a disability that was the result of her inability to work under particular supervisors because of the anxiety and stress created by the standard oversight of her job performance by these supervisors.  The California Appellate Court found that this did not qualify as a disability even though her physician identified her condition as an adjustment disorder.

The employer did give the employee several months off to address her anxiety, but then terminated her employment when she was unable to produce medical information that showed she was disabled and unable to work in her current employment setting.  The California Court found that the employee did not suffer from a commonly recognized medical disability and therefore did not meet the first requirement to prove a disability discrimination case – that she suffered from a disability that impacted her ability to work.

This is a good decision for employers because employees often claim their supervisor is mistreating them or being too aggressive in their supervision of the employee’s performance as compared to the supervision of other employees.  An employee making a claim like this must have very clear documented medical information; however, employers may want to consider granting some time off as a way to show good-faith consideration of the problems experienced by the employee.