Do I have any legal rights after being fired for having a mental health disorder?

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Do I have any legal rights after being fired for having a mental health disorder?

This happened about 1 1/2 years ago, but it’s still bugging me. I was working for a company for over a decade and had been told I did well, got good performance reviews, and regularly got raises and bonuses. I had some hard personal things happen, and became depressed, which affected my focus and ability to do my job well. I told my manager I was under treatment for depression. She said something about maybe giving me a leave of absence, but then never brought it up again. She put me on work probation due to my performance issues, and even though I markedly improved, fired me a year later. I was then offered severance, but I had to sign a gag order that said I wouldn’t sue for compensation. I was desperate and panicked, so I signed it. Is this legal?

Asked on May 31, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It is completely legal and even common to ask employees to sign various settlement agreements--e.g. giving up the right to sue; even contractually promising to not comment on the situation in any way--in exchange for severance, and such agreements are enforceable and binding. The fact that you felt panicked or desparate is irrelevant: your subjective feelings or regrets over signing it does not invalidate an agreement which you signed in exchange for consideration (a thing of value: the severance). You are therefore bound to what you signed and cannot sue if you gave up the right to do so.


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