By Amy Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Most employers know they shouldn’t fire employees who aren’t healthy. But what about employees who aren’t, in common parlance, sane?

A JetBlue flight was forced to make an emergency landing recently when the pilot, in the throes of a mental breakdown, began screaming “we are all going down” – words that probably top most airline passengers’ list of things I hope I don’t hear on this flight.

No doubt making the management’s list of things they don’t want to hear: you can’t fire him.

Under the law, employees are protected from termination on the basis of illness that, with reasonable accommodation, allows an employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The law also requires that covered employees be provided leave while undergoing treatment. But while many employers know that physical illness must be accommodated, they often don’t realize that mental illness is also covered and also must be accommodated.

While they certainly don’t need to hand the keys to the guy screaming in the aisles, they do have to accommodate his need for treatment. Otherwise, they’re likely to hear the scariest words of all: I’m suing.

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