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Apologies if this is not the right forum for this question. Please feel free to close if it should be asked elsewhere.

I was recently terminated from employment due to poor performance. About a year ago, my mother passed away, and the psychological trauma was extreme. I already suffer from clinical chronic depression, and this even took a toll on me.

For a six-month period, there were several instances where I missed work without notice. Admittedly, I could have communicated an out-of-office status, but my depression seemed to overwhelm me to a point where it was difficult to communicate. Upon a conversation with my manager, I communicated that I understood the need/requirement of communication, and I began seeking intense therapy (both alone and with group support) on Mondays. My employer made accommodations to this and allowed me to work only Tuesday-Thursday.

Two months ago, I was asked by my manager when Mondays were going to be available again, and I was told my team/colleagues were feeling a lack of cohesion with the team on my part. I told her I'm still working through this loss and therapy has been immensely helpful, but she pushed the cohesion issue again. I felt guilted/pressured into willfully terminating my Monday therapy.

A month ago, I accidentally only requested 2 days of PTO (in our PTO system) for a trip to celebrate my mother's passing. I communicated effectively with the team that I would be gone for three days, and they even marked it appropriately in our team-level capacity sheet.

I was confronted two weeks ago by my manager stating that I am not communicating well enough with my team, and that no one was aware of this extra day. To that end, I was given an ultimatum.

I was told I had to perform the following tasks every day:

  • An end-of-day status, consisting of what I planned to accomplish today, what I actually accomplished, and plans for the next day
  • Attendance to all scheduled meetings, unless I was sick.
  • In our team chat software (Slack), I must "@here" anytime I was away from the keyboard, or send an e-mail to all team members. @here sends a notification to all team members' screens in case they have the software minimized.

Each of these things are not required by any other team member. While I don't mind guided direction to regain team cohesion, these requests--especially the "@here" portion, felt extremely degrading, especially if I just had to use the restroom. Furthermore, throughout these next two weeks, it also felt like a slap in the face when other team members would just send a non-notifying message if they were going to be away or offline.

Last week, I @here'd that I was feeling under the weather and would work remotely from home. That afternoon, I was feeling light-headed, and so I communicated that, accidentally without the "@here." I was terminated yesterday explicitly for this.

I am in an at-will employment state, so I do understand that employment can be terminated at any time, but I still feel concerned that my reason for termination was that I was not following rules that only I was given as an ultimatum for employment. If it matters, all my team members are of the same role/level as me.

Update: Part of my concern is that I was also encouraged to terminate therapy, even with knowledge that I am suffering from a medical condition exacerbated by recent events.

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    I can't tell what the legal question you are asking is. Is the question simply: can an employer require a single employee to adhere to stricter communication requirements than other similarly situated individuals? If so, you can remove the personal story and just ask the question plainly and directly. – user3851 Mar 24 '16 at 22:03
  • @Dawn The other employees are presumably not similarly situated because they are presumably not being held to a performance improvement plan. – phoog Mar 24 '16 at 22:24
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    "At will" means "at will". I don't know what you are asking here... If you didn't like the extra communication steps you were instructed to take, you could have easily vacated the position "at will". Would you have expected your employer to find an actionable cause with that? – Scott Mar 25 '16 at 0:59
  • @scott former's expectations and preferences don't affect the legal analysis. – user3851 Mar 25 '16 at 1:02
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    Understood @Dawn I think the whole personal story really clouds any actual question. All I can read is "is 'at will' really 'at will'?" -- but I'm not stating I'm correct here :) – Scott Mar 25 '16 at 1:06
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You were on a performance improvement plan, those often require special requirements of the employee.

I'm sorry your mother died, but a year seems like a very long time to take, and your company was very kind to give you that long.

I am not a lawyer but I sincerely doubt there is anything actionable here.

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    I can't comment yet, so I will use this as an appropriate area to respond to @sam. Grief, and especially chronic depression exacerbated by grief, are not time-boxing conditions. While there may be legal precedents to define what is "normal," no time is "a very long time to take," especially without context. I'm not asking if anything is definitely actionable, but merely if this is potentially something of concern, as I was asked as part of this process to terminate medical help. For what it's worth, I'm seeking advice from someone who is in the field of Law. – Former Employer Mar 24 '16 at 21:47
  • @Dawn as far as I can tell this question does answer the legal question, in the affirmative, based on the fact that the employee in question was on a performance improvement plan. – phoog Mar 24 '16 at 22:23
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    @Former Employer, It is not your employers responsibility to take care of you. I say they were kind to give you a year because they were, not because you should be over it in a year, but because they were beyond kind to you to give you that long. – Sam Mar 24 '16 at 23:22
  • @FormerEmployer my earlier comment in response to your answer was deleted when the answer was converted to a comment, so I will repost it. You have created two accounts, which, I think, can be merged, but I don't know how to do it. Your difficulty commenting arises from the fact that you have two different accounts; normally one can always comment on one's own questions and their answers, but your second account, of course, doesn't own the question posted by the first account. – phoog Mar 24 '16 at 23:54
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    @sam I wanted to explain my reasoning better than I did in the edit. Regardless, whether a year seems like a very long time to you and whether you think the company was kind are irrelevant to the legal analysis. – user3851 Mar 25 '16 at 14:20
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If you were suffering a disability, you needed to request reasonable accommodation

If either you didn't request reasonable accommodation for a disability, or if your employer's communication plan was reasonable accommodation, or if no reasonable accommodation was available, they can require almost any kind of communication from you.

In an at-will employment setting, no reason is needed for firing you. Although, they can't fire you because of your disability. This relates to the reasonable accommodations in the previous paragraph. If they provided reasonable accommodation and then determined that you were still unable to meet their needs, the firing complies with the ADA.

Whether you were due reasonable accommodation and if so, whether their accommodation was reasonable are not answerable based on the facts provided.

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