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Bipolar Disorder and Legal Protections Against Disability Discrimination in New Jersey

Legal News GavelA few weeks ago, this blog covered the story of an NFL linebacker who filed a lawsuit in New Jersey against his former team, the New York Jets, accusing the organization of engaging in disability discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). While some observers have theorized that the linebacker’s lawsuit “could wind up testing the way the NFL treats players with mental health problems,” the lawsuit clearly serves as a reminder of the protections provided to New Jersey workers by the LAD. Anyone who has been subjected to discrimination based upon bipolar disorder or another major psychological condition should consult a New Jersey disability discrimination attorney right away.

As a preliminary matter, it is important to note that there is more than one type of bipolar disorder. There is both “bipolar I” and “bipolar II.” The popular website webmd.com distinguishes between the types by explaining that bipolar II “is similar to bipolar I disorder, with moods cycling between high and low over time. However, in bipolar II disorder, the “up” moods never reach full-blown mania.” (Full-blown mania may involve things like auditory hallucinations and delusions of grandeur.) Both types of bipolar disorder qualify as disabilities under New Jersey law.

The law requires your employer to reasonably accommodate your disability. Sometimes, the reasonable accommodations the law says that your employer must make may relate to the symptoms of your bipolar disorder. In other circumstances, the reasonable accommodation you may require may relate to the medical regimen used to treat your bipolar disorder. For several drugs, including antidepressants like Zoloft or antipsychotic drugs like Seroquel, one of the common major side effects is pronounced drowsiness. Certainly, being very sleepy may affect your performance on the job, meaning that you may need to interact with your employer regarding your drug treatment regimen and a reasonable accommodation.

The issue of needed drugs, their side effects, and reasonable accommodations was a key issue in the New York Jets linebacker’s lawsuit. The linebacker received treatment for his bipolar disorder from a doctor hired by the team. That doctor prescribed Seroquel for the linebacker to treat his bipolar disorder. According to the linebacker’s lawsuit, the drug caused him to suffer serious drowsiness that made it difficult for him to wake up and become alert in the mornings. This allegedly caused him to miss some team meetings and to be groggy at others (which led to assumptions that he was drunk or hung over).

Whether you have bipolar type I or type II, the LAD says that your employer is not permitted legally to discriminate against you based upon your condition. This is also true for people with depression, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and many other psychological conditions. If you have one (or more) of these conditions, your employer must reasonably accommodate your condition. In bringing your LAD lawsuit, you must first establish that you are a member of a protected group, such as a person with bipolar disorder. Once you do that, the law requires your employer to give the court a legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation for the adverse action it took. If the employer clears this hurdle, you are required to show that the reasons the employer gave were really just a pretext for illegal discrimination.

Whether you have bipolar disorder, depression, ADHD, or some other psychological condition, you may have certain rights if your employer discriminates against you based upon your condition. To learn more about your rights and your legal options, contact the knowledgeable New Jersey disability discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have been fighting for the rights of a wide variety of mistreated workers. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation. Talk to one of our attorneys to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

New Jersey Auto Dealership Employee Wins Important Battle in Disability Discrimination Case Against the Employer Who Fired Him, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Nov. 8, 2017

NFL Linebacker Sues Former Team in New Jersey for Allegedly Engaging in Illegal Discrimination Based Upon His Bipolar Disorder, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 5, 2017

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