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

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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