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  • NFL Player Sues Former Team For Wrongful Termination

    Former NFL linebacker Erin Henderson is suing the New York Jets for wrongful termination after the two sides failed to reach a settlement agreement. Henderson was released from the Jets in February after the team declined to pick up the option on his contract for the 2017 season.  The suit claims that Henderson was let go by the Jets because he suffers from bi-polar disorder.  The suit further alleges that the team knew about Henderson’s disability and refused to accommodate it.  Henderson is seeking $3.3 million in damages from unpaid roster bonuses and salary from the 2016 and 2017 seasons.  He also claims to have suffered damage to his reputation and severe mental distress as a result of his wrongful release.

    Henderson began having issues with the Jets when he was placed on the Non-Football Injury list in October of 2016, effectively ending his season. At the time, the team did not publicly disclose the reason Henderson was placed on this list but he is now claiming it was due to his bi-polar disorder.  The team claims that Henderson was “unfit” to play.  Henderson alleges that the team was made aware of his disorder after being treated by a team psychiatrist.  He also claims to have discussed his condition on multiple occasions with team officials, including the head coach.  Henderson was previously released from the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 after being arrested on DWI charges which he later plead guilty to.  He has not signed with another team since his release from the Jets.

    Every state has their own set of laws protecting employees with disabilities, including the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination which Henderson cited in a letter sent to the Jets. On a federal level, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees who suffer from a mental disability against wrongful discrimination.  The ADA applies to all public employers and private employers with 15 or more employees.   Under the ADA, an employee is protected from discrimination by an employer so long as the employer knows of the employee’s disability.  This protection from discrimination includes wrongful termination.  The ADA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee once they learn of the disability.

    Under the ADA and many similar state laws protecting employees with real or perceived disabilities, employers are required to consider and implement an employee’s reasonable accommodation requests if doing so would allow said employee to perform his/her job. Employers are encouraged to ensure that they keep proper documentation of an employee’s performance to avoid potential wrongful termination lawsuits.

    Requesting the appropriate documentation and conducting proper inquiries concerning the condition of an employee with a disability can be tricky. Employers are encouraged to review the applicable regulations of their state and the ADA to ensure they are in compliance and to seek counsel when presented with disability documentations and accommodation requests.

    If you, or your organization, have any questions concerning disability laws, contact Cynthia A. Augello at 516-357-3753 or via email at caugello@cullenanddykman.com.

    Thank you to Ryan Soebke, a law clerk with Cullen and Dykman LLP, for his assistance with this post.