Henderson and his attorneys filed a lawsuit in Morris County Superior Court on September 26, 2017. Adam Saravay, an attorney with the law firm of McCarter & English located in Newark, is defending the New York Jets. The lawsuit has demanded damages in excess of $3.3 million. Henderson’s complaint alleges wrongful termination, hostile work environment, and termination for pretextual reasons. Mr. Henderson had played for another NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, before joining the New York Jets. He played for Minnesota for 5 years from 2009 until 2014, when he was ultimately cut for two alleged drunk driving incidents that occurred in the span of jut three months.
Following, his DWI driving arrests, Henderson took part in a rehab program and reportedly gave up drinking. His lawsuit alleges that his drinking problems were well known to the league and to the general public, therefore the manner in which the Jets fired him led to unfair speculation that the reason for his termination stemmed from more alcohol related issues. This would mean that other NFL teams would be less likely to offer him a spot on their rosters if they believed he was still combatting his alcohol problems. However, Henderson denies that alcohol related issues were not the real reason for his termination. Instead, Henderson acknowledges that he suffers from a mental condition, bipolar disorder, which is the real reason he was let go, and the basis for the lawsuit that was recently removed to Federal Court.
His lawsuit also includes counts for false light defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and is even seeking punitive damages. False light defamation is a legal term used in tort law that concerns privacy and is similar to the tort of defamation. Basically, the law protects non-public individuals from publicity that portrays them in a negative light. Henderson alleges that the manner in which he was let go from the Jets rises to the level of false light defamation as it portrays him as a person battling substance abuse.
Henderson had signed to play for the Jets for the 2016 season with an option extending to the 2017 season. But after just 5 games with the Jets he was placed on the non-football injury list. The Jets declined to exercise their option for the second season in 2017, but the lawsuit is seeking damages for 2017 earnings and bonuses worth over two and half million dollars.
Henderson had apparently discussed his bipolar disorder with the team’s coach and was directed to psychiatric treatment with Derek Suite, who is the mental performance coach for the Jets. However, Henderson may have suffered from some side effects from medication that he was prescribed that could have affected his game play. The drugs may have caused him to oversleep scheduled practice times and to show up late for team functions like meetings.
Both State and Federal law provide significant protection against discrimination by employers for someone suffering from a mental or physical condition, If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your job as a result of a disability you should seek a consultation with an experienced Lawyer. There are statute of limitations that can bar you from making a claim if you delay.