Employment Discrimination - Employee's depression led to absences and tardiness.

 
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Byline: North Carolina Lawyers Weekly Staff

Where a federal government employee's depression resulted in repeated absences and tardiness from work, her employer's refusal to offer her a permanent position did not constitute unlawful discrimination or retaliation.

Background

In March 2011, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) hired Hannah P. for a five-year term as an operations analyst. Hannah generally received exceptional performance reviews from her supervisors.

Several months after she was hired, Hannah was diagnosed with depression. She immediately informed two supervisors about her diagnosis but did not request any accommodations at that time. She treated her depression by seeking a counselor and a psychiatrist and taking a prescribed medication.

In November 2013, Hannah was assigned to coordinate responses to the unauthorized disclosures by Edward Snowden. The role was extremely high stress, involving long hours, tight deadlines, and a demanding client. Hannah was put on a flex schedule that required her to work 80 hours over a two-week period but did not dictate the number of hours she needed to work each day. Under this schedule, Hannah would start and end work later than a typical business schedule.

Hannah remained on the flex schedule after the Snowden assignment ended in January 2015. Within a couple months, Hannah had amassed a number of unplanned absences. Her coworkers perceived her schedule to be erratic and she often arrived well after normal business hours. In March 2015 Hannah met with a supervisor to address her attendance issues. They developed a plan wherein Hannah was to arrive by 10 a.m. and contact her supervisors in advance if she was going to be late or absent. If she had not arrived or contacted a supervisor by 11 a.m., the supervisor would call her.

After Hannah continued to arrive late or miss work without providing advanced notice, the plan was modified to remove the requirement that a supervisor contact her after 11 am, placing the onus to notify exclusively on Hannah.

In April 2015 Hannah's supervisors informed her that they would be referring her to the Employee Assistance Program, a voluntary counseling service. Hannah told them that her psychiatrist had recommended she take four weeks of medical leave, but her supervisors insisted she meet with EAP first. Hannah's supervisor told Hannah he was willing to authorize her medical leave, but she informed him that the request was on hold...

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