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Small Business Owner Sparks Debate After Telling Employee With Anxiety And Panic Attacks That She Should Clock Out If She Can't Do Her Job

Dealing with ones employees can be tricky, especially when they're dealing with a diagnosed anxiety disorder.

But what happens when a person's disability is self diagnosed? And seems to only appear when an employee is asked to do tasks they don't like?


One boss on Reddit visited the popular page "Am I The A**hole?" to try and determine whether she'd done the right thing by telling an employee to clock out when she was unable to work.

She titled her post "AITA for telling my employee to clock out if she can't work due to her self diagnosed anxiety?"

"I manage and co-own a company that makes soaps, lotions, etc. We only sell locally and online so we work out of a pretty small warehouse with a store front. I only have 9 employees."
"Since we work in a small warehouse, much of the cleaning duty falls on them. Nobody minds it. The only complaint that I get is that about eco friendly products. We rotate chores so nobody gets stuck doing what they hate. This system has worked out the entire three years we have been open."
"My last hire hates doing any of the cleaning. She has a pattern that I've noticed. Any day that requires her to clean bathrooms/take out trash she makes sure to talk about how anxious she is and how her stomach hurts, and she can't focus. She often ends up laying down or going into a dark room to relax."
"At first I did the stuff for her because I felt bad, but after I noticed what she was doing, I told her she had to trade with one of her coworkers. She usually got someone to do the cleaning for her."
"Friday was her day to do the trash and sort out recycling. When I went to go tell her to do it she was already sitting in the dark in our break room. I asked her to go take care of the trash, she said she couldn't because she was on the verge of a panic attack. I asked her if she asked another coworker to do it, she said none of them agreed to do it."
"I told her that she could take a minute to calm down but she needed to get it done. She said that there was no way she could do it. I told her to go ahead and clock out then. She asked me why, and said that she had 5 hours left in the day. I told her to clock out if she can't do her job. She got very angry and said that I had to provide reasonable accommodations for her disability. I told her that self diagnosed anxiety isn't a disability, so she can do her job or leave."
"She quit, threatened a lawsuit, and walked out. When we returned to work on Tuesday (today), I noticed a couple of employees were a bit cold to me. The other ones were very eager to show me the unfavorable posts that their former coworker had made on social media over the weekend. They think I should apologize to her and make her go away (they're afraid it will cause us to lose business and cut hours)."
"I can tell that some employees are upset about my behavior. I'm not sure how to feel about how it went down, so I'm curious who a third party would think is the a**hole in this situation. TLDR: AITA for telling my 'anxious' employee to clock out if she wasn't going to do her job?"

Others with diagnosed mental health issues quickly chimed in to let the owner know she was in the clear.

"I have anxiety. Actually, I'm diagnosed bipolar with psychotic features and severe anxiety. My disorder is currently under control, and I'm doing fine, but I have been in the hospital with panic attacks in the past. Unless she can provide documentation that she has a diagnosed anxiety disorder, she has no legal case over you. So that's out of the way."
"Knowing my disorder, I don't expect anyone to accommodate me if I can't complete my daily tasks. My job involves caring for elderly people. If I was unable to do my job, I wouldn't expect my employer to accommodate me - it's not fair to pawn off work onto other people just so I can hold the same position. If this was going to be a problem, she should've warned you and tried to work it out with you ahead of time, but instead she simply refuses to perform that part of her job, which is completely unacceptable."
"It would be one thing if this was a small part of her job, but it sounds like cleaning is one of her main job duties. If she can't handle it, she needs to go find a job that suits her. End of story."
"Part of the growing stigma toward people like me has to do with us demanding that people bend over backwards to accommodate us. We are responsible for our own disorders. We need to find our own coping mechanisms and we need to figure out a way to find a job that works for us. Her attitude is really harmful for people who have mental health disorders." -Jerkforbreakingup

Many felt similarly.

"This is what drives me crazy about half the people with 'anxiety.' I mention to people that I have a pretty decent case of anxiety, usually after I've known them for awhile because I don't want to be that person, and all of a sudden I'm a faker because people with anxiety don't actually have it, they just use it as an excuse. (Same with my Tourette's, but that's another story.)"
"Ummm, I have been diagnosed with anxiety. I have anxiety attacks. There are things that I literally can't make myself do because of it. That said, if I know I can't do something, I tell people. And I'll always try if I haven't done something before, unless it has to do with heights. Like you, I would never work a job that I knew I wouldn't be able to do. Had I joined the Army, I wouldn't have volunteered to be a paratrooper, because I wouldn't be able to jump out of a plane." -leftiesrox

If an employee has a job, they should be doing it.

"I got diagnosed with anxiety and given some prescriptions a few years back. I only took them for a little while, because usually I can manage the symptoms myself but I had just taken a new job and moved across the country and had a baby, that I had to leave at home for weeks at a time because my job required me to travel. Once I got a new rhythm I was able to go off the meds again."
"Did that stop me from traveling for days a week and going into unknown manufacturing businesses to help them deal with their manufacturing system problems and customization's? Nope. I still got it done."
"This girl? If she has too much anxiety to take out the trash or clean a bathroom (but not even so much as a diagnosis) then she needs to: 1. See someone immediately. 2. Not do that job... Totally [Not The A**hole] (NTA)." -infiniZii

There were many suggestions about how to deal with anxiety disorders.

"I've had diagnosed GAD/social anxiety with mild OCD/depression for about 2 years. I also do not tell many people at all about my anxiety. I really have to know someone and trust them before I let them know I struggle with it. I don't want people to baby me or think less of me or think I'm just faking it. Just about the only person who truly sees me and my struggle is my husband, god bless him."
"When I was not able to do parts of my job (make phone calls), I got help. I went to therapy and got on meds. It's still not perfect, but I can do my job. I would never get a job that required me to make phone calls every day all the time, so I cannot understand taking that job and then telling my boss I can't do it due to my mental disorder." -gamergeek17

Ultimately, many people with anxiety disorders thought the employee should be fired.

"Jumping on the back of this. I'm diagnosed bipolar disorder with anxiety as well. Medicated. I struggle EVERY day with going to work and anxiety blah blah blah. I have never brought it up at work, never avoided or refused to do work duties, no one at work even know I have bipolar disorder."
"I can't believe what this employee is doing with regards to disrupting your business. She needs a dose of reality. I say fire her and address it honestly with your staff. If they see her as a victim, they're being sucked in." -throwawayyyyy1110

Having a mental illness is no laughing matter, and a real issue millions of Americans deal with daily. But reasonable accommodations require two things: an actual disability and that they be reasonable.