My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: Florida.
I had been working at my job for almost 3 years now. I suffer from Bipolar disorder diagnosed since 1993 and have been on disability in the past before my employment with this company. In March of 2012, I suffered a manic episode triggered by a rumor one of my coworkers had started that I was fired. On a Thursday, I received calls and texts from other coworkers asking me what happened and if I had really gotten fired. The following Friday I went to their Ethics and Compliance Office and asked the director what I had learned. She informed me that in Florida and at this company there has to be a reason for termination and that they give the employee time to rectify the problem that may be present. She assured me that I still had my job and that if I had never been called in by management before there was no problem. I was a good performer and had perfect attendance. I was already in a manic state by this time and was not convinced of her answer. The following Sunday I was hospitalized for my bipolar disorder. My psychiatrist put me on FMLA for 10 weeks and notified my company by fax that following Monday. I was hospitalized twice from March 18-21 and then on April 2-9 for my illness. Since I was in a manic state and could not exercise correct judgement, I was calling up the employee who started the rumor and left angry messages.
After my release from the hospital, I was served papers saying that this employee felt threatened by my messages. I had to appear in court. The judge said that he needed the testimony from my psychiatrist stating that I was not a threat to myself or anyone else. Since the woman and I work together he granted her the injunction in her favor and that I had the option to modify his decision once my psychiatrist was ready to testify on my behalf that I was bipolar and in a manic state and was not in control of my actions. Also that I was not a threat to myself or anyone else.
Two weeks later, I received a termination letter from HR stating that I willingly admitted to harrassing phone calls made to my coworker and therefore violated the company's Code of Conduct and that I was not eligible for rehire. I am still in the process of coordinating with my psychiatrist to get the injunction modified with the court. I filed a dispute with my company regarding my termination. After I have the injunction modified, I have to appear before the company's Panel Review to determine the outcome of my dispute regarding my termination.
My questions are:
1. Was the company in any violation of terminating me while on FMLA which was supposed to end on May 25, 2012?
I know I may have violated the Code of Conduct while in was in the hospital making those calls to my coworker. But I had no control over my actions since I was in a severe manic state. The judge only issued the temporary injunction until I was able to obtain my psychiatrist to testify on my behalf that I was not a threat to my coworker since I was in a manic state.
2. Does the mere fact that my coworker spread the rumor about me being fired make the workplace a hostile environment? It was that rumor which threw me into panic and fear and triggered my mania being subsequently followed by two hospitalizations.
3. What is the purpose of appearing before my company's Panel Review? Should not they have conducted this after my FMLA was over and given me a fair opportunity to defend myself before terminating me? I am not eligible for rehire so what is the point to showing up? They are requesting from me a release from my psychiatrist that I be able to participate in their Panel Review unimpaired.
4. Is this a potential wrongful termination case or do I have no recourse in their decision? Am I not protected in any way by the Americans with Disabilities Act?
Please advise. I appreciate your help in advance.