Legal issues: if someone is possibly bipolar


When we fired “Earl” this morning after he screamed at his supervisor on two separate occasions, we were ready for him to blow up. Instead, in an eerily calm voice Earl told us that our firing him would give him everything he wanted, because he could then sue us. Earl said he had bipolar disease and we were violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because he was being unfairly terminated.

We told Earl that he wasn’t being fired because of any disability and hadn’t even known there was a “bipolar issue.” We were firing him because we placed him on a performance improvement plan the first time he’d screamed abusive insults and then he did it again. We added that he’d also been rude and aggressive to co-workers.

Earl laughed in our faces and played a recording he had on his smartphone in which his supervisor referred to him as “that bipolar guy.”

Can he sue?


He can sue, though he might not win.

Bipolar affective disorder is a disability, offering “qualified” employees affected by this mental disorder protection under the ADA. To be “qualified,” employees have to be able to perform the essential functions of their job, with or without reasonable accommodation.

© 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

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