Man Goes off “The Deep End”

First paragraph of the SECOND article reads:  "One of our employees stopped his Prozac prescription two weeks ago and then went off the deep end. The supervisor found this out when she went into his Outlook sent log and found rambling dissertations about how he'd love to tie up her and one of his co-workers, leave them in the office over the weekend and see if they were so smart after all."

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LYNNE CURRY
MANAGEMENT

Published: June 15th, 2008 11:30 PM
Last Modified: June 15th, 2008 01:52 AM

Q. One of our employees stopped his Prozac prescription two weeks ago and then went off the deep end. The supervisor found this out when she went into his Outlook sent log and found rambling dissertations about how he'd love to tie up her and one of his co-workers, leave them in the office over the weekend and see if they were so smart after all.

Needless to say, this rattled the supervisor and she was foolish enough to tell the other employee named in the e-mails who got quite upset and left work. We called corporate headquarters, were told they will check with legal and get back to us, but that we need to treat this situation like a disability. They also told us to discipline the supervisor for poor judgment.

The employee who wrote the e-mails has technical skills our company needs. Also he's upset his supervisor read his private e-mails, and he's threatened to quit if we don't discipline her. If the final answer to this situation involves continuing to employ this man, can we require him to keep taking his medications as a condition of employment?

A. If this employee wrote his e-mails on a company computer during work hours, his supervisor had the right to read them. She did not, however, have the right to violate his privacy by telling his co-worker about his medical history.

Although the supervisor escalated this situation by briefing the other employee, she surfaced a real problem when she investigated this employee's sent log. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act requires that employers maintain a safe work place for all employees. Even if this man was joking in his e-mail, he threatened two employees.

Because your Prozac user might be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, you need to accommodate his disability as long as you can do so in a reasonable way and without endangering other employees. Since the ADA distinguishes between current problems and "future threats," you probably can't successfully require this employee to continue his Prozac.

You can, however, deal with his misconduct in threatening others, particularly if your personnel policies prohibit employees from making threats. In other words, focus on what matters — not the Prozac, but the threats.


Lynne Curry is a local management trainer, consultant and syndicated columnist. Her advice and opinion column appears Mondays. Questions for her column may be faxed to her at 258-2157 or mailed to her c/o Anchorage Daily News, P.O. Box 149001, Anchorage 99514-9001. Her e-mail address is lynne@thegrowthcompany.net .