Andrea is a lawyer in the corporate legal department of a major company. She’s never quite fit in with the rest of the department and tends to work alone rather than as part of a team. She gets the assignments the other lawyers don’t want.
Over time, feeling isolated and unwanted, Andrea’s confidence drops and the quality of her work slides. She thinks about calling the employee assistance program (EAP) but she’s paranoid that her boss will find out and it will be a mark against her. So she slogs along feeling unwanted and unappreciated.
Her lowest point comes when an executive chews her out in front of the whole department accusing her of misreading a paragraph in a contract that he wants to cancel. When Andrea protests that she wasn’t asked about how to cancel the contract, the executive says she’s incompetent and ought to be fired.
On the way home that day, Andrea buys supplies at a local craft store to build a piñata. That evening she creates the piñata and writes the executive’s name on it. Then she beats the piñata to a pulp with her tennis racket. After that, she has a glass of wine and some dark chocolate.
But wine and chocolate can’t solve every problem. Andrea’s morale continues to disintegrate and she becomes deeply depressed. She begins seeing a psychologist for mental health counseling. The counseling sessions help her with personal problems even as her work situation deteriorates.
Eventually, she is fired from her job and she sues the company. The company argues that she was fired for incompetence due to emotional and mental instability. To prove it, they demand details of her sessions with the psychologist. The company argues that it has a right to this information because it paid the insurance premiums for the health plan that covered the psychologist’s sessions.
What should Andrea do next?
- She should make a bigger piñata of the executive and buy more wine and chocolate.
- She should accept that she’s not crazy; the company was the wrong employer.
- She should write an advice book about dealing with egotistical managers and start a new career as a business consultant.
The above scenario is loosely based on a California lawsuit about ten years ago where the company argued unsuccessfully that paying health insurance premiums meant it had a right to know the details of an employee’s mental health treatment. Unfortunately, arguments like the one raised by the California case make it difficult to convince employees to seek mental health treatment from an EAP or their health insurance plan.
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