View Full Version : Woman Fired When Bosses Find Out She Has ADHD


ADDesquire
08-05-16, 12:47 PM
A cautionary story for all of us dealing with ADD in the workplace...


Design Execs Mocked Worker's ADHD, Fired Her, Suit Says

By Kat Greene
Law360.com
August 1, 2016

LOS ANGELES — A recently fired employee of Manhattan brand design firm Slover & Co. accused her bosses of mocking her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in emails that were accidentally made public, then firing her for it, according to a suit filed in New York state court.


Adrienne Thiery said she’d just gotten a promotion and a $12,000-a-year raise at Slover & Co. when the two top executives at the company, Susan Slover and Rosemary Kuropat, leaked a personal email exchange between the two about Thiery’s ADHD, according to the suit filed Thursday in New York.



In the email exchange, Slover says, “It cannot be our problem and at a higher salary,” then suggests Thiery may have to “have a departure” from the company.



“It’s all very tiring, Rosemary,” Slover wrote, according to the email shared in Thiery’s lawsuit.



Kuropat responded that she wasn’t as “empathetic” as Slover, adding, “This chick is hopeless!

”

Thiery said those emails were accidentally sent to Thiery, other employees at Slover & Co., and vendors of the company, and that, shortly thereafter, Slover tried to blame Thiery for the situation because she hadn’t disclosed her disorder when she was hired in July 2015, according to the suit.



Slover then, for the first time since hiring Thiery, said she had performance problems, then fired her, according to the suit.

“

Ms. Thiery was terminated because she suffers from ADHD,” the ex-employee said in the complaint. “Defendants regarded Ms. Thiery as having an impairment of a system of the body resulting from anatomical, physiological, genetic or neurological conditions, and terminated her based on this disability and/or perceived disability.”



Thiery said in her suit she was hired in July 2015 as an office manager, acting as an executive assistant to Slover and Kuropat. In that role, she handled in-house technical support, coordinated employee health care benefits and managed various aspects of projects, she said.



In December, she was paid a year-end bonus, even though she’d only been at the company for half the year, according to the suit. And in May, she was promoted to the role of account manager, a position that came with a $12,000-a-year raise, she said.



She was given the promotion at a time when other employees were being fired, demonstrating that the company viewed her as an elite employee, she said.



But around the time she was given the promotion, she mentioned in casual conversation to another employee that she has ADHD. She manages the disorder with medication, she said in the suit.



That co-worker told Kuropat, who then told Slover in the now-public email exchange in early June, according to the suit.

Slover told Thiery in an email that Thiery didn’t offer complete honesty when she was hired for the job and that she wouldn’t have been hired if the company had known about her disorder, according to the complaint. And then, for the first time since she’d been hired, Slover said Thiery had performance problems and fired her, according to the suit.



Kuropat then chimed in on the email chain, saying, “I have always believed in clean breaks, and think that this unfortunate email surely calls for one now,” Thiery said.



She accused the company and its two leaders of discrimination in violation of New York state law and of trying to intimidate her to keep her from suing the company by threatening to countersue her, according to the complaint.



Kuropat told Law360 on Monday that the decision to fire Thiery had been made long before the executives found out about her learning disorder, and that Thiery's ADHD had nothing to do with her termination.



Thiery had been told she was having performance issues in dozens of emails leading up to her termination, and the only reason she hadn't been fired sooner was that Kuropat was traveling for business and Thiery was on vacation in May, Kuropat said. Thiery had even emailed friends from her work computer saying she was planning to leave and she told at least one person she was looking to score a big payday with a discrimination suit, Kuropat said.



"We steadfastly deny that we discriminated against Adrienne on the basis of a condition of which we were not aware until after we made the decision to terminate her employment, and we stand affirmatively in support of giving every person a fair opportunity to make a contribution and earn a living," Kuropat said. "It is unfortunate that Adrienne is trying to use this baseless lawsuit —*and the press —*to obtain financial benefits to which she is not entitled."



Kuropat noted that Slover is her life partner of 23 years, and the casual tone of the emails was the result of Kuropat's belief that she was communicating solely with her spouse.



Slover & Co. has, over the 30 years it has been in business, hired people with a wide array of disabilities, including a designer who was gifted but colorblind, Kuropat said.



"The common traits of all the people we’ve employed with above-market salaries, paid vacation leave, paid sick leave, paid health insurance, profit-sharing and a 401k plan to which we make an annual contribution — and whom we supported during the recession when we did not pay ourselves — are competence and reliability," Kuropat said. "Unfortunately, Adrienne did not demonstrate those characteristics."



The company has never been sued before, Kuropat said.



David Gottlieb of*Wigdor LLP, representing Thiery in the suit, said the emails were incriminating enough to sink any contention Thiery was fired for a legal reason.



“We expect to prevail on summary judgment given that defendants are faced with a series of candid emails that they wrote and which completely sink any argument that there was a non-discriminatory reason for termination,” Gottlieb said.



Thiery is represented by David Gottlieb of Wigdor LLP.

Counsel information for the defendants couldn’t be immediately determined.



The case is Adrienne Thiery v. Slover And Co. et al., case number 156310/2016, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.

Lunacie
08-05-16, 02:08 PM
I think she will do well with her lawsuit against the company, and I hope she does very well.

If she had never asked for any accomodations based on her medical condition, had been fulfilling her duties ... which she was apparently doing well enough to rate a promotion ... the employer seems to have decided arbitrarily that the medical condition was a problem. I don't think they will be able to prove there was any problem to a judge or jury.

But sadly we do still face discrimination based on mental health medical conditions. :mad:

WheresMyMind
08-05-16, 02:55 PM
I've observed and been part of a few proceedings, but none ADHD.

A few points that come to my mind about this case:

ADD/ADHD, accommodations, performance, termination:
* If a person has ADD/ADHD, and it prevents them from doing their jobs, the company is not obliged to keep them. The company is obliged to accommodate them, if such accommodations let them do the job, in the presence of the ADD/ADHD (or any other disability)
* Whether a person has a disability or not, a record of poor performance is reasonable grounds for termination. If the person had requested accommodations, and the company provided them, I expect a court will want evidence of what those accommodations were...and if they were indeed made, and if the person still didn't perform, termination is legal.
* However - the 'poor performance' will need to be documented and signed by the employee, providing evidence that the employee had been told about the performance problems and thus, given an opportunity to improve.
* If the company granted raises during the time it's now claiming "poor performance", then the company's position is weakened...most courts will listen to the money more than the written record.
* I doubt that it matters if she disclosed the ADD/ADHD in advance of being hired, since so many people don't know until something causes them to get checked out.

$12,000 raise and promotion:
* A promotion is a Big Darned Deal. When you get promoted, you are not simply expected to do better work - the work is very different. You may be going from doing the work, to directing others to do the work. You usually take on a bigger workload and deeper responsibilities. In the lower position, you may write a position paper for the attorneys to present in court. In the higher position, you will not only write the paper, but may be required to defend it in court.
* There is no reason why a person's performance in the previous role should be expected to predict their likelihood in the next role, but managers still dream that this is true. Many careers are ruined this way.
* There are many cases (mine included) in which a person with poor performance is being promoted in the hopes that they'll do better with different responsibility. However, if it's not clear in the written statement of promotion that this is the reason, then I doubt a court will believe the argument. The inclusion of a $12,000 raise may hurt the company's case, but not if it can be demonstrated that the raise only brought the person into the lowest allowable pay for the new job.


There aren't enough details to make a fully accurate position but my guess as to most likely outcome is:

- Company will pay some restitution for the leaking of sensitive personal data
- If company's written performance evals are not up to usual Fed standards, more restitution
- If she disclosed her ADD and the company did not attempt to make accommodations, the court might order them to give her the old job back...not the promotion. But, if the company has smarts, they'll offer, instead, to pay her salary and the fees for an outplacement firm to find her a job elsewhere. The relationship between her and this company has been destroyed and it was done in public.

I feel very sorry for her, because now that her name has been published as part of the story, it's highly unlikely that any law firm will want her, and neither will any company want her in a position where she'll deal with members of the public who are interested in the law. Of course, this is why I expect the company to pay restitution - a lot - for having disclosed all this private info.

Little Missy
08-05-16, 03:34 PM
I think it is ultra strange that whomever chose that to be their first post here.

Radio Hiker
08-06-16, 03:57 AM
Not that I'm exactly a veteran of these forums...

...but I'm finding myself wondering if the Original Poster is somehow involved in this case or is personally acquainted with the Plaintiff?

A quick Google search led me to some reviews of the company via GlassDoor and Google Reviews. Most were positive, but there were a few negative reviews also.

acdc01
08-07-16, 10:40 AM
Not that I'm exactly a veteran of these forums...

...but I'm finding myself wondering if the Original Poster is somehow involved in this case or is personally acquainted with the Plaintiff?

A quick Google search led me to some reviews of the company via GlassDoor and Google Reviews. Most were positive, but there were a few negative reviews also.

Probably is. But doesn't really matter to me. Even if she's associated with the case, she probably just wants to warn others since she's suffered herself. I wouldn't think it's just about getting more media attention. And if discrimination happened, I hope the injured party makes a crap load of money.

Yes, there is plenty of prejudice out there and I would definitely take disclosure very seriously. That said, I do believe there are times when it can do good. Both my coworker and I disclosed and though things aren't perfect for me, I'm still better off having disclosed than not. For my coworker, it undoubtedly saved her job cause there were massive layoffs at the time and even she knows she would have been then next to go had she not disclosed. Now, she's even gotten a top performer award.

spamspambacon
08-07-16, 11:25 AM
I feel very sorry for her, because now that her name has been published as part of the story, it's highly unlikely that any law firm will want her, and neither will any company want her in a position where she'll deal with members of the public who are interested in the law. Of course, this is why I expect the company to pay restitution - a lot - for having disclosed all this private info.



I think she worked for an advertising firm; I think the law firm is who is representing her, and is the one who posted here (with the user name of "ADDesquire").

acdc01
08-07-16, 12:21 PM
I think she worked for an advertising firm; I think the law firm is who is representing her, and is the one who posted here (with the user name of "ADDesquire").

I guess you guys are probably right.

I'm pretty ok with it though. Anything to raise awareness. It's not like this is a made up case and I'd bet discrimination really did happen.

spamspambacon
08-07-16, 01:57 PM
I guess you guys are probably right.

I'm pretty ok with it though. Anything to raise awareness. It's not like this is a made up case and I'd bet discrimination really did happen.


Very true!

ADDesquire
08-07-16, 06:37 PM
Hi all,

Original Poster here. Longtime lurker, first time poster, as they say. I apologize for simply posting this article without any context or personal details my first time out. For those who are interested, here’s my story…

I was diagnosed with ADD more than twenty years ago, in my sophomore year of college. That diagnosis changed my life, and since then I’ve been able to cope more-or-less well, through a combination of medication, Post-It notes, email, phone alarms, Bose headphones, Slack, apps, an assistant (just recently) and a lot of late nights and weekends working by myself. For the last two-and-a-half years I’ve been working as in-house counsel (I’m an attorney) at a small financial technology company in the Bay Area. I have not disclosed at work. I have one child who’s been diagnosed with ADHD.

Frankly, I’ve never posted before because, on the one hand, I didn't have any personal questions or issues that I didn't find already covered (more or less) somewhere on this board, and on the other hand, I've never felt I had anything unique or particularly profound to contribute. But I’ve certainly gained a LOT of insight from these boards over the years.

Anyway, in the course of my job I have to keep up with all kinds of legal issues, which is how I came across this article in Law360. I decided to create an account here and re-post the article for a few reasons. First of all, the article was published in a legal journal that doesn’t get much “general interest” traffic, but I thought it was important for people on this forum to see. Second, this an unusual case in that the plaintiff is claiming that she did not have any workplace “issues” with management (as demonstrated by her bonus, promotion and raise) before her firing, but instead that she was allegedly terminated simply because her employers discovered she had ADHD. That’s unusual for this type of case—that the termination was the alleged result of blatant discrimination and not poor workplace performance. Finally, this case is also unusual because all the evidence (from both sides) seems to be in the form of emails, as opposed to verbal interactions or implied or inferred actions. That’s also rare for a discrimination case—all the evidence here seems to be tangible.

For all those reasons, I thought this article would be worth posting here. I am not connected to anyone involved with this case—plaintiff, defendants or attorneys—nor do I have a strong feeling as to who’s telling “the truth” here. The plaintiff’s claims seem unusual (e.g., that she possesses incriminating emails actually written by the defendants) but not unprecedented, whereas, on the other hand, one of the defendants is quoted in the article as saying that the plaintiff “had been told she was having performance issues in dozens of emails leading up to her termination”…which, if true, would seem to spell doom for the plaintiff’s action. Moreover, this defendant was also quoted as saying, “We steadfastly deny that we discriminated…and we stand affirmatively in support of giving every person a fair opportunity to make a contribution and earn a living.” So, both sides are claiming that they have tangible evidence to support their version of the story, and it seems that it may take a trial for “the truth,” whatever it may be, to actually be revealed.

However, the details of this particular case are not why I posted this article. I posted it as a general reminder to anyone considering disclosing at work that doing so can be very, very tricky, and should be done only after careful consideration and in circumstances that you choose! In this case, the plaintiff’s employers found out accidentally, through a co-worker, which is clearly not the best way for this to happen. I was hoping that by posting this article, I could further the conversation on this forum of how/when/why/if to disclose.

Sorry for the long post, but I hope this clarifies things.

And now, back to my homework…

Radio Hiker
08-08-16, 03:06 AM
I've never disclosed to any employer, and likely never will. Even if the person who hired you is really cool and is willing to work with you, the situation can change down the road. Management can (and often does) change, and you can find yourself with a different supervisor who is told that "Radio Hiker has ADHD" by the old supervisor but doesn't know anything about it other than it is a potential issue that can cause problems in his department. Disclosing to coworkers is risky too, as it can make you vulnerable to office politics.

Until recently, I have been fortunate in my current job, as I am convinced that my boss himself has ADHD (undiagnosed), and I (medicated and with workarounds I've developed over a lifetime of knowing I have ADHD) have actually been able to help him with managing certain aspects of the business.

spamspambacon
08-08-16, 02:43 PM
Hi all,

Original Poster here. Longtime lurker, first time poster, as they say. I apologize for simply posting this article without any context or personal details my first time out.



Thank you very much for clarifying!

After having a major problem keeping track of my time (I had to perform dozens of "clock-ins and outs" every day) I disclosed at work and was promptly fired 5 days later.
There is a gnat's chance in he** I'm going to do that again.

Someone elsewhere in these forums had a GREAT idea.... instead of disclosing and asking for accommodations, tell your boss things like "My desk can get messy" or "I need to take notes otherwise I might forget" or "sometimes I can get off track a little so you might ask me to check in with you a few times a week..."

Little Missy
08-08-16, 03:01 PM
The hard part is understanding that every one can be replaced.

TygerSan
08-08-16, 03:08 PM
However, the details of this particular case are not why I posted this article. I posted it as a general reminder to anyone considering disclosing at work that doing so can be very, very tricky, and should be done only after careful consideration and in circumstances that you choose! In this case, the plaintiff’s employers found out accidentally, through a co-worker, which is clearly not the best way for this to happen. I was hoping that by posting this article, I could further the conversation on this forum of how/when/why/if to disclose.
:goodpost:

And don't discount accidental disclosure either. One damned slip of the tongue and you can be in a world of pain. Mine was a response to a comment related to a task that I was too new to know was actually as big an undertaking as I had perceived it to be, but which my supervisor decided was no big deal.

In retrospect the response to "This shouldn't be so hard. Do you have ADD or something?" is *NEVER* "Yes." Ever. :doh:Even if you're sleep deprived. Even if your addled brain thinks it's a perfectly fine response.

Rockkso
08-11-16, 02:49 PM
Wow, she actually has a pretty strong case since her employers were dumb enough to explicitly mock her disability in emails. They are claiming that the decision was made "before" they found out but unless they can actually document that somehow, I doubt a jury is going to believe them. The only actual written records seem to indicate a retaliatory firing.

Tetrahedra
08-11-16, 08:39 PM
The ultimate message behind this is that when it comes to workplace interactions, always write your emails (and act in general) as though the subject of the e-mail is reading it, too.

Wow, she actually has a pretty strong case since her employers were dumb enough to explicitly mock her disability in emails. They are claiming that the decision was made "before" they found out but unless they can actually document that somehow, I doubt a jury is going to believe them. The only actual written records seem to indicate a retaliatory firing.

This is the reason that the employee is going to win. Even if there were two hundred e-mails with the employee discussing her potential termination, the fact that the employers were so casual and callous is going to screw them over. That and, of course, the fact that they sent the e-mails to everyone.