Attempted Suicide and the American with Disabilities Act

When Erie, Pennsylvania’s first female firefighter, Mary Wolski began experiencing symptoms of severe depression after her mother died in 2005, she took a leave of absence. At this time Wolski underwent psychiatric treatment involving various prescription medications.

When she could not return to work as scheduled, Wolski was granted additional time-off. It was then, in early 2006, that Mary Wolski attempted suicide by disabling carbon monoxide and smoke alarms and set her home ablaze. She survived the fire and was hospitalized.

Now facing a criminal investigation for arson, Wolski was informed that she could not return to work and on April 3 her sick time became Administrative leave. Soon after she was formally cleared of any charges but on April 11, the city’s first female firefighter was terminated for the attempted suicide.

Alleging that her termination violated the ADA, Wolski filed suit. A trial and retrial followed (Wolski v. City of Erie, Case No. 1:08-cv-289-SJM (W.D. Pa. Sept. 28, 2012)). Her former-employers arguing that she was let go not because of her suicide attempt but because of the safety risk she posed to others for her part in setting the fire.

Regardless, the EEOC clearly states in its Enforcement Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities that “the employer must seek reasonable medical judgements relying on the most current medical knowledge and/or the best factual evidence concerning the employee.”

If you feel you were a victim of a disability discrimination, please contact The Harman Firm today.