Vietnam Vet's Firing Stands Despite Stress Disorder

March 5, 2002 ( - A man who fought his April 1999 dismissal with allegations that his employer violated a basketful of federal discrimination laws, lost a major legal battle when a federal judge rejected his claims.

US District Judge David Coar ruled that the move by A. Finkl & Sons Co. to end John Gibbs’s employment was not related to Gibbs having been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Gibbs was a Vietnam War veteran.

Coar turned away Gibbs’s claims that his firing violated:

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  • the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA),
  • the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
  • the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and
  • the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

According to court papers, Gibbs missed four months of work after having foot surgery in 1997. After he returned, Gibbs complained that he was “unable to communicate without flying off the handle.”  The Veterans Administration then made the PTSD diagnosis.

Finkl & Sons fired Gibbs in April 1999 and Gibbs sued two years later.

In considering Gibbs’ legal claims:

  • Coar threw out the ADA claims after ruling that Gibbs hadn’t proven his was disabled even with his PTSD, arthritis and degenerative disk disease. Coar also threw out Gibbs’ claim that his company knew he was disabled because of his war-related PTSD.
  • The court also rejected Gibbs’s allegation that Finkl violated COBRA by not giving him enough notice about his right to buy continuing health coverage. The company said it had mailed a COBRA notice to Gibbs’ last known address.
  • Finally, the court dismissed Gibbs’s FMLA charge. Gibbs had not proven that his firing was connected to any sick leave he took, the judge said.