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Tina
Tina, Attorney
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 31573
Experience:  JD, 16 years experience & recognized by ABA for excellence in employment law.
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Customer Question

I was a lead paralegal on a nationally high-profile case when I had to seek help for addiction to alcohol. Since my return the attorneys who I supported 1) refuse to work with me, 2) didn't invite me to the case-end celebratory party, and 3) none of them have contacted me or replied to an e-mail that I have sent. I feel they are discriminating against me for a medical problem by marginalizing me to the sidelines. What can I do?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Tina replied 2 years ago.
Hello and welcome,

Did your work suffer as a result of the addiction?

Did you take FMLA leave while you were out of work?

How long were you on leave?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Do you have an answer?
Expert:  Tina replied 2 years ago.
I'm sorry, but I was waiting for you to answer my questions first. Perhaps you did not receive them.

Here are the questions I posed to you, so I have a better picture of your situation:

Did your work suffer as a result of the addiction?

Did you take FMLA leave while you were out of work?

How long were you on leave?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Huh? I responded with them. Here they are again.

1. No one knew of my problem. I told the paralegal and HR managers when I returned from the recovery house. My treatment by the firm thereafter suffered.

2. Yes

3. Five weeks.
Expert:  Tina replied 2 years ago.
My apologies. I don't know what may have happened to your initial response, but I didn't receive it.

This appears to involve disability discrimination, not discrimination for taking FMLA leave. Both are illegal as you may know. While your addiction does not protect you from disciplinary or punitive actions by the employer, your treatment does give rise to protection from such conduct by the employer typically.

Because the adverse actions began after you informed the employer of your treatment, that would normally give rise to a claim for discrimination under the ADA, for which you should file a complaint with HR unless filing the complaint would be futile.

Your next step, if the issue is not promptly resolved, is to file a formal complaint with the state fair employment and housing commission in an effort to resolve the matter.

Here is a link that explains the law further (use keyword "alcohol"):

http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/health_care_workers.html

It is best to also retain a local employment law attorney to represent you through this process.

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Also remember, sometimes the law does not support what we want it to support, but that is not the fault of the person answering the question, so please be courteous. Thank you.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I may change employment because the situation has grown that bad with my current employer. Failing to get help through the two ways you suggested because it assumes I will stay put, can I file a complaint in superior court seeking punitive damages from a defendant who should have known better?
Expert:  Tina replied 2 years ago.
No. You must follow this procedure or forfeit your right to pursue a claim at all unfortunately.

If you quit, you limit your damages, although punitives may be available even if you terminate the employment relationship.

It is best to retain a local attorney though especially since you are dealing with legal professionals.

All the best to you.



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