UPS Employee Fired After Requesting Special Accommodations For Depression

If corporations are people, as some politicians famously claim, then should they be expected to act like it?

Not according to one UPS supervisor in Kentucky, should the charges against him be proven to be true. When 46-year-old Dona Kerger approached her superiors at her Kentucky UPS branch about finding a way to work primarily on "light duty" work assignments, she was rebuffed. Having begun at UPS in 2007 as a tariff classification specialist, Kerger had been open about her clinical anxiety and depression. She also had never once been suspended, demoted or disciplined and had an excellent work record.

Armed with the knowledge that UPS had previously made special accommodations for injured employees, Kerger sought to come up with an acceptable work schedule that would allow her to respect her condition. "Do you honestly think we care about you personally?" was the response given by her supervisor, Mike Richardson.

Following that retort, Kerger was summarily dismissed. She filed suit for discriminatory and unlawful discharge on the basis of a disability, according to the complaint obtained by the Courthouse News Service.

While the second half of the 20th century witnessed major civil rights advances concerning race and gender, many have argued that issues like physical beauty and mental health will increasingly be on the docket for this century.

Those working in the field of mental health have long emphasized that people are predisposed to mental health problems, a fact that is widely accepted for more extreme syndromes. And of course, the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other laws, does provide safeguards for those who qualify. But each new discovery of a genetic basis for mental health conditions could lend credence to the conclusion that the mentally ill deserve entrenched workplace protections.

For instance, a new study out of the University of North Carolina has determined that 11 DNA regions in the human genome have strong association with diseases including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The study uncovered six new areas that previously had not been connected to such disabilities.

"This is the largest study of its kind by far," says Patrick F. Sullivan, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a principal investigator in the study.

Indeed, those who suffer from any mental health condition, including pure depression, have long had a rough go of it in the workplace. According to an article published by Medscape Medical News, large-scale population surveys have consistently estimated the unemployment rate among people with mental disorders to be three to five times higher than average. Also worth keeping in mind is the accompanying stat that roughly 50 percent of U.S. employers are reluctant to hire someone with past psychiatric history or who currently is undergoing treatment for depression.

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