A call center worker employed by New York City is suing for reinstatement and back pay after being viewed as a danger to her coworkers and recently fired from a job she held for 27 years.
According to the city, she was deemed to be acting in a threatening manner toward the deputy director of the city’s Financial Information Services Agency, including loudly singing the lyrics of the Bob Marley song “I Shot the Sheriff.” The city had previously ordered the worker to undergo a psychiatric examination in September 2013, and raised concerns about an incident in which the City said she poured salt around her desk to keep demons away.
The dispute serves as a timely reminder that employers should tread carefully regarding issues concerning employee mental health. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued extensive guidance regarding applying performance and conduct standards in such circumstances including what sort of examinations an employer may require if concerns are raised.
As in most areas of human resource practice, the factual context is essential to evaluating how the employer should proceed. As the worker told The New York Post, the salt issue was a misunderstanding, she is a fan of Bob Marley, and the actual lyrics to the song she sang are “I did not shoot the deputy.” All things considered though, “One Love” might have been the better way to go.
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