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Thursday, June 14, 2007


I have a friend that is employed by a subsidiary of a large UK company, but here in the states there are only 38 employees.

The friend fell into some acute depression recently, and I suspect it will take at least a month before this person is able to work again.

In the meantime, the employer has given her one week to return to duty or she will be fired.

She lives in California, and the U.S. employer is in Texas.

Since she does not qualify for the Family Medical Leave act as the firm has less than 50 employees, does she have any other recourse?

BTW, I observed the advice in the BLOG of getting on with your life, but finding a new job whilst recovering from a major depression is ill advised, as this is a major stressor. I know, I tried when I had the experience many years ago.


California may provide some protection to your friend, as California has lots of laws that I am unaware of. You're right that she doesn't qualify for FMLA (not only would there need to be 50+ employees, but they would have to be in a 75 mile radius).

She may have protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as depression can be a qualifying condition. However, needing a month off may not be considered a reasonable accommodation--although it doesn't hurt to try.

Companies may seem cruel and heartless, but they are in business to make money and they can't do that when an employee is not working. Does she have short or long term disability insurance? If so, she could qualify for those payments, given that her doctor states that she is unable to work.

Has she spoken with HR--both in the US and the U.K.? Many times a manager makes harsh decisions like this without consulting with HR. It could be that this is fully against policy, but that he has deadlines and sales goals to reach. If the depression has been going on for a long time without a specific diagnosis, her work could have been suffering and the manager might see this as the last straw. Call HR--it's worth a shot.

I'm afraid, though, that beyond that, the advice may be to get on with your life. I know, I know, it's not helpful. Job hunting while healthy is no fun. Job hunting while recovering from a major depression doesn't even register on the pleasant things of life scale. Plus, being unemployed can really be detrimental to the recovery process.

Apply for unemployment, I believe she should be eligible.

I hope your friend is being treated by a competant therapist and a competant physician. The focus should be on getting healthy.

I'm sorry I'm not of more help. Perhaps some of my HR colleagues can weigh in on this one.

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