Question: I was recently diagnosed with a disability, while at the same time I was given a 60-day probation period for not completing my work on time. The 60 days are up and now they put me on a 30-day Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”).

I think they are going to fire me. The only accommodation I was given was a later start time for work. Should they take into account my mental abilities? 

Lisa
Provo, Utah

Answer: Dear Lisa: I can’t answer the question you pose because you haven’t provided me with enough information:  

1. If you have been diagnosed with a “disability,” then you have a legal right to a “reasonable accommodation” to that disability, to help you perform your job. If, for example, your disability was that you needed to use a wheelchair to get around, you might ask – as an accommodation – that you be given a desk that is high enough to permit the wheelchair to get underneath it. If, for another example, you have difficulty with your hearing, you might ask – as an accommodation for a telephone with a louder amplifier in the receiver. The “accommodation” that you are entitled to is (a) related to your disability, and (b) intended to make it possible for you to work. Without your sharing with me (i) the nature of your disability, or (ii) what accommodation you need for that disability, or (iii) what accommodation(s) you have requested, I cannot really answer your question.

2. Having a disability does not prevent your employer from (a) placing you on probation, (b) giving you a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), or even (c) terminating your employment. Employers are not required to maintain the employment of disabled persons. Nor are they required to keep them on the payroll. Rather, if after providing the requested accommodation, an employee is still not performing his or her job duties, that person can be treated just like any other non-performing employee: placed on probation, given a Performance Improvement Plan, or even terminated.  

3. If due to a disability, and after given an accommodation, you cannot perform your job duties, you may be eligible to receive long-term disability payments from either (a) a publicly-available disability program, provided by the government, or (b) a private disability insurance policy. Our society has a number of ways of taking care of its citizens who are disabled. Some are provided by our various government entities, such as Social Security Disability. Some are provided by private insurance policies funded by employers. Some people pay the premiums themselves for private disability policies. If you are unable to work due to a diagnosed disability, you should consider one of these several sources of help.

I recommend you arrange for an appointment with Provo’s local disability agency to determine what disability benefits, if any, are available to you. Try by reviewing the website of the Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities. Their website is www.dspd.utah.gov.

4. You might also consider obtaining a consultation with an attorney located near you who is experienced in representing disabled persons in such matters. From a bit of research I’ve done, I’ve found an experienced disability attorney in your hometown of Provo, Utah named E. Craig McAllister. His website is www.disabilitylawyerutah.com. Though I don’t know him personally, his website does seem to indicate he is quite experienced in these matters, including disabilities resulting from anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and other medical and emotional issues.

Lisa, don’t get discouraged, and don’t get depressed; instead, Get Cracking! Even if you cannot work, you can get help from a number of sources, all of whom are waiting for you to call and ask.

I hope this has helped you in your quest for information. Thanks for writing in. I very much hope and pray you’ll find the resources you need.

Best,
Al Sklover

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.