A supervisor rides his subordinates hard, criticizing them and picking on them. He gives his team members severe stress, including headaches and upset stomachs. Is this stress a disability that the employer must accommodate? California lawyers have pondered this question.
Under the Americans with Disability Act, “management-induced anxiety disorder” is not a disability. Under that law, a condition counts as a disability only if it “substantially limits one or more major life activities.” If getting a different boss would make the stress go away, then stress caused by the current one does not substantially limit the major life activity.
California law is different. Since 2001, the Fair Employment and Housing Act has required only that the condition limit, not substantially limit, the major life activity. When the Legislature changed California law, it specifically meant to protect employees whom the ADA failed to protect with its “substantially limit” standard. Did it mean to protect employees with mean managers?
Today a California court of appeal said that this state’s law does not go that far. Stress from oversight of an employee’s work performance is not a disability. Although the court did not really explain how it reached its conclusion, it implicitly re-enforced something courts have said over and over.
Bad management and unlawful conduct are not the same.