I’m here today to chat about a difficult topic that comes up all too frequently, and that is with regards to cases that involve mental health issues and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst law enforcement or firefighters where the person has found themselves in a disciplinary issue. This, unfortunately, arises all too commonly when someone has been suffering in silence for years dealing with symptoms, trying to deal with them on their own. Oftentimes that results in situations that come up at work, either on the job or off the job.
That can be anything from drinking excessively and a person runs into a DWI situation or this can be symptoms associated with hyper-vigilance where all of a sudden somebody is butting heads with their supervisor and getting themselves in hot water. It can involve, even including, complaints of excessive use where a person is hyper-aroused during a call. This can also involve making mistakes and bad judgements on the job, as far as being able to concentrate and focus and starting to make mistakes. Unfortunately, a lot of times, what happens amongst our law enforcement and firefighter clients is that it takes something bad happening in order for them to recognize that there is an issue and not infrequently, that can involve discipline issues on the job.
A lot of times people think that if I’m facing a legal issue because I’ve got a DWI, or if I’m looking at potentially being terminated because I’ve had discipline issues arise, that it somehow prohibits them from being able to assert a claim, if in fact they are experiencing mental health issues that are related to their work, and that can’t be further from the truth.
The reality is that oftentimes when an officer starts to struggle with performance issues, or excessive drinking, or other issues that are interfering with their ability to do their job, a lot of times that is due to some underlying mental health issues that are not being adequately addressed and not withstanding that an employer will try to invariably argue that the person is just a bad employee or things of that sort. Our office frequently handles claims where there is an overlap between mental health issues and job performance issues, and so we frequently utilize or cooperate with the efforts of various law enforcement unions, such as LELS (Law Enforcement Labor Services), to either effect some sort of voluntary separation or some other negotiated agreement, whereby the officer separates from the employer without having to necessarily go through a formal termination process, but that does not bar an individual from asserting a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder or other types of mental health issues if that is what they are dealing with, simply because there has been a discipline issue that has popped up.
If you or someone you know suffers from work-related PTSD or other types of mental health issues, it is wise to consult with an attorney experienced in this area of the law. At Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A., we have represented many clients with PTSD, including police officers, firefighters, first responders, and correctional officers. We understand this nuanced area of the law and work with our client to ensure you receive the full benefits to which you are entitled. Contact Meuser, Yackley & Rowland for a confidential, no-obligation consultation today.