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Anger under the ADA?
June 30, 2006
We have an employee who blows her top and yells at co-workers at the drop of a hat. What are our options in dealing with her?
Angry employees are found on every rung of the corporate ladder, from entry-level workers to top-level executives, and we have all been unfortunate enough to encounter them - the fist-pounding, apoplectic "screaming meemies." These are people who not only instill fear in the targets of their wrath but also intimidate others, who may end up being too fearful to lodge a complaint.
Sometimes these workplace bullies get away with their behavior for so long that they may think they are immune to repercussions. However, as the employer, you can encourage and sometimes even require employees to attend anger management sessions.
You may wonder if anger is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Bear in mind that to be protected by the ADA, the individual must have an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, must be regarded as having a disability or must have a history of disability.
Unpleasant personality traits make a person difficult to get along with, but often they are not related to any substantial limitation on major life activities and frequently are not indicative of psychiatric conditions. Anger, however, could indicate post-traumatic stress disorder or another psychological condition that would be a disability if it substantially limits a major life activity.
Nevertheless, the ADA protects only qualified individuals with disabilities, and employees who want to be reasonably accommodated should ask for a workplace adjustment—not mouth off. And even if an angry worker has an ADA disability and has requested an accommodation, the law would not shield the worker from standard discipline for misconduct.
The best approach with a disgruntled worker might be first to counsel the employee; if that isn’t successful, encourage the individual to attend anger management sessions. Ease into the conversation with some positive comments, state the problem and be ready to back up your points with documentation or examples.
A sample script: "Mary, you've been doing a great job on Project X, and we appreciate your energy and commitment, but we have some concerns about your management style, and we'd like to discuss them with you."
Health plans typically don’t cover anger management treatment. While some companies may require employees to pay for treatment themselves, the employer or employee assistance program usually picks up the tab.
Source: SHRM Magazine, VA
For More Information
- Contact your regional ADA & IT Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC)
Phone: 1-800-949-4232 (v/tty)
The Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) is authorized by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to provide information, materials, and technical assistance to individuals and entities that are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) under Grant #H133D010207. However, you should be aware that NIDRR is not responsible for enforcement of the ADA For more information or assistance, please contact the Southeast DBTAC via its web site at www.sedbtac.org or by calling 1-800-949-4232 (TTY/voice).