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District Court for Maryland Holds that Bi-Polar Employee Not Qualified Individual with Disability

On February 28, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland dismissed a claim by a former Maryland Department of Agriculture worker under federal and state law that the Department failed to accommodate his disability and terminated him because of his disability.  Higgins v. Maryland Dep’t of Agric., No. 11-0081 (D. Md., February 28, 2012).

The Court found that the employee failed to demonstrate he was a qualified individual with a disability and, instead, found that he was terminated for “intolerably disruptive behavior.”  The employee had worked at the Department since 1987 and, for the most part, received positive reviews.  Beginning in 2002, the employee started to receive bad reviews, including that he was confrontational, abrasive, and abrupt with the public and his co-workers.  In 2006, he was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.  Over the next three years, his behavior continued to be rude, disruptive and unusual.  Eventually, he was fired.  He sued, and the court found that courteous behavior was an essential function his job.  The court found that he failed to do his job because of his bad behavior and his behavior was not excused because of his disability.  He failed to demonstrate that a reasonable accommodation would have improved his behavior.  Tolerating his disruptive behavior was not a reasonable accommodation.

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