? wrongful termination of employee with mental illness

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My jurisdiction is: New Hampshire

I think I may have been fired for behavior exhibited as a result of side effects from the medication I am taking for my bipolar disorder. I had worked for a pain clinic, as an RN, for 6 years. The company employs approximately 80 people. All administrative staff were well aware of the fact that I was bipolar and a recovering alcoholic, it was a subject that was openly discussed. I had not experienced any difficulties with my disorder that affected my job performance until this summer. For the last 4 years, I have taken a medication called Lamictal, which is a neuroleptic used to stabilize my mood.
Over the past couple of years I have experienced a couple of episodes that included staggering gait, double vision, and subsequent nausea and vomiting. Both episodes began after I had arrived at work and subsided within a few hours. INo one at work seemed too concerned and I was told it was ok for me to stay until my symptoms cleared. After each of these episodes my psychiatrist changed what he thought was the offending medication, but left the Lamictal intact.

Over the past year I have fallen at least once a week and was noticed there where times I was very confused. Mu psychiatrist was aware of all idiosyncratic behavior and continued to make med changes needed.

This past summer I experienced a hypo-manic state that caused a lot of irritability and anxiety. The hypo-manic state turned into a manic episode over Labor Day weekend and, I unfortunately, tried to kill myself by taking an overdose of my psychiatric medications. I was admitted and discharged home the next day. I had to call in sick the following day, which was not the norm for me. I chose not to share my suicide attempt with my co-workers. My psychiatrist added Lithium to my enormous list of pills I have to take and Seroquel, a psychiatric medication with a strong sedating effect, to help me sleep. I took a dose of the Seroquel for four nights and the 5th night/ dose caused a significant reaction in which I was very foggy and confused. But because I quite often have periods like this in the morning as a result of being Bipolar, I wasn't too worried about my fogginess, which I thought would pass with in an hour or two. When the side effects did not cease until later that evening, I realized it must have been side effects from the seroquel. I threw the seroquil away and notified my psychiatrist.

Approximately 1 week later I was approach by my supervisors, who wanted to discuss my "slurred speech" and "staggering gait" noticed by my coworkers from time to time. There was also a patient complaint that while he was having an education session, I seemed to not know what I "was suppose to teach, was giggling and squirming around" as if I were in "pain" (the day I suffered the side effects from the Seroquel). I tried to explain that I had suffered a reaction to my psychiatric medication, but I got the distinct feeling they thought I was misusing my medication instead. I was told to take a week off and "get my shit together" and that I should "go to a lot of meetings". I agreed that I needed time off to get better and let my medication levels even out, but all the meetings in the world weren't going to change the fact that the problem was my bipolar disorder and my medication and not anything addictive related. The only thing that could help is to continue to adjust my medication and give them time to see if they work and hopefully that would be in a week. I tried to assure them that the odds of something like this happening again where pretty small, given the amount I had worked there without problems. Tha answer was an emphatic "It WILL happen again" I also told them that I had just started taking Lithium and it was beginning to kick in. Their reply was "don't make me drug test you!" I offered and they declined.

I returned to work the following week in a very stable state. One of the supervisors advised me to call in sick if I even thought I was going to have a reaction, because we needed to protect me and the patients from harm or distress. Unfortunately, the very next day I experienced the worst reaction to a medication I have ever endured. I had severe double vision, total inability to maintain my balance, slurred speech, nausea and vomiting. I also thought I was writing and speaking appropriately but was told I was slurring my speech and what I thought I had written coherently was just a bunch of gibberish. This lasted for 3 days and I called in all 3 days (W-Th-Fri). My husband and I had a discussion concerning my health and we both agreed I should take a leave of absence. If I wasn't 100% myself on Monday, I was going to talk to my supervisor and discuss the possibility of a leave of absnce Well, I never got the chance. On the 3rd day (Fri) I received a phone call from one of the supervisor who told me they did not need me any more, so I didn't need to bother to come back. I was told that my absences were causing a problem because no one knew what I really did and it was inconvenient for someone to cover (In reality - no one needed to "cover" for me, my education patients could be rescheduled) I tried to explain that I was just doing what I was told by staying home whan I was having psychiatric or medication problems and I was having horrific trouble managing my bipolar disorder. I told them that the medication, Lamictal, had been responsible for the slurred speech, the staggering gait, the falling etc. all along. I pleaded with them to talk to my psychiatrist, who could verify the information I was giving to them. I was told that If my psychiatrist could provide a letter by the end of the day they would consider allowing me to stay. I contacted my psychiatrist and he said he would fax a letter to them (but did it the next day). A few days later, I was contacted by HR and asked where would I like to meet them so they could deliver my belongs to me. I was never allowed back in the building.

My termination papers said I could not perform to the expected standard of the job. The job I was doing when they fired me, had no job description, so it would be difficult to measure a standard. The unemployment statement said I was unable to perform my duties but there was no misconduct. I was unable to perform my duties because I an out-of-control Bipolar patient At one point I indicated I would need sick time to get better (which occurred during the discussion about my" get you shit together week"). I was informally offered accommodation when I was told to stay home when I was having problems that would affect my performance. And, I was unable to ask for a leave of absence before 3 sick days where completed, which is generally how many days it takes to determined if an illness tcan be considered be serious enough to ask for a leave of absence (which I now know is a FMLA)

I am really sorry that this was so long winded, but I'm afraid if I left anything out, it might alter your advice. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to tell my story to someone that might be able to steer me in the right direction. Thank you.
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