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Panic Attack and Panic Disorder triggered at the workplace

by Jim A.
(Boston, MA, USA)

I was at work and suffered a full on panic attack in the middle of a large staff meeting in which I was scheduled to speak to the group. My turn to speak had not yet come up. I experienced: heart palpitations; sweating and trembling; dry mouth; a hot flush; shortness of breath; difficulty swallowing; nauseated; and dizziness to near faint. It was uncontrollable, incredibly embarrassing, and one of the worst experiences of my life.

I asked a coworker to cover my piece of the presentation and excused myself from the table. My boss looked disgusted and annoyed. I tried to breath through it and experienced a "fight or flight" feeling.

I grabbed my stuff and exited the building. I did not feel better until I reached my home. It took nearly one hour to get back to "normal". Then I went into work this morning and experienced the same panic attack at my desk. I went home again sick. I don't think I can go back.

My question is: if I have to quit due to panic attacks, is that enough grounds for Unemployment Benefits in the State of Massachusetts? Do I need a "doctor's note"? How would you suggest I proceed?

Chris's Answer

Short answer: No

Long answer...

I don't want to upset you Jim, when you tell me you are susceptible to becoming anxious, but even I, who experienced something quite similar is about the potential of a medical problem and that is what must first be dealt with.

Also, that you even asked this question is like admitting you did pay attention to what I insist on you know first about the burden of quitting a job.

Not a lot, but to Wrap you head around the burden of proof and that you are not exempt from it.

Because when someone does know a quit must be PROVEN attributable to the work, or an employer, even in a state such as Mass requiring that, or a state allowing quitting to be with good personal cause reasons, they can begin to ask me question about meeting the burden. And you don't do that with self diagnosis of
a medical condition, or assuming it is this workplace, or a boss, causing the health problem.

Without medical confirmation it is something at this workplace triggering the new(?) onset of panic attacks, it could even be ruled you are ineligible .. because your panic attacks, keep you from working anywhere outside your own home.

And I not just talking about good cause to quit in general, I'm referring to the information you can find about how UI works in Mass.

The Massachusetts service rep manual can be extremely helpful because it's literally a training manual for how a claim representative (adjudicator) must ask questions, to properly investigate. And in your case, this means what you did prior to quitting to of actually been unreasonably forced into quitting, by the employer.

What you do now is also relevant if it can prove your scowling boss decided to fire you, before you manage to get to the doctor who may actually suggest a medical leave of absence that it wasn't really for anything rising to the necessary level to prove misconduct connected to the work.

It's why when we read unemployment laws, we often ignore good cause as being an ability to prove we exhausted all reasonable efforts to PRESERVE the employment.

So ya Jim, I would suggest not only getting a doctor's note, in case they do decide to terminate you when you get back, but medical documentation that effectively, puts a name to what caused the potential discharge to not be deemed misconduct and is sufficient to request a medical leave for the time being to preserve your job, unless it is medically confirmed to be caused by your work in some way.

Panic Anxiety disorder by the way, a condition relevant to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), not to mention the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which any employer with 50 or more employees, must be compliant with .. and knowing what it takes to be compliant should include you, even if all you want out of this is an ability to protect your right to collect the not so measly unemployment benefits in Massachusetts.

All the Best,

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May 09, 2016
And How About Bosses Who Exacerbate Us to Exasperation and Quitting Without PROOF of Good Cause
by: Chris -

Something you should also take up with HR as one of the common counters from employers when someone quits because of a boss, or a health reason exacerbated by a boss is that the employer never told them about the problem, so they could do something to help resolve the situation and to help the individual preserve their employment ...

Like removing you from under the bad bosses authority and to someone who may actually have leadership skills to use your potential properly.

But hey, this is just me, yapping about what I would also do .. if I were to ever be forced to opt to be an at-will employee again.

Fingers crossed I won't.

May 09, 2016
Good advice
by: Jim A.

Thank you for taking the time to answer, Chris. I believe that the panic attacks are related to the overall workplace conditions and have been exasperated by the efforts of my boss. I plan to seek a medical appointment to make sure that it isn't something more serious and to discuss treatment options.

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