Ex-Linebacker Accuses NY Jets of Disability Discrimination

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (CN) – A former New York Jets linebacker claims his bipolar disorder motivated the team to cut him this year, and he wants the money he would have made had the Jets not learned of his condition and shown him the door.

Erin Henderson sued the team Friday morning in Morris County Superior Court, naming only New York Jets LLC, not the National Football League, as a defendant.

According to the 10-page complaint, Henderson signed a two-year contract worth $3.1 million with Gang Green in 2016, but problems arose shortly after the Jets learned of his bipolar disorder diagnosis.

The linebacker, who is currently a free agent, claims he was treated for the condition by Dr. Derek Suite, who was the Jets’ team psychiatrist.

The complaint says that Dave Szott, the team’s director of player development at the time, advised Henderson to seek treatment, which included prescribed medications like Seroquel, to control the bipolar disorder.

According to Henderson, the disability and treatment he underwent was discussed with several higher-ups at the Jets, including Head Coach Todd Bowles.

The team placed him on the non-football injury list, or NFI, in October 2016, which he says left him unable to play and cost him about $580,000 in salary he was due for the remaining games last season.

Henderson’s lawsuit claims the Jets placed him on the NFI “a few days before it was obligated to pay [him] a $250,000.00 roster bonus.”

He says his performance didn’t warrant the move, as he led the team in tackles during his last two games of the 2016 season against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.

The Jets then parted ways with Henderson in February, terminating his contract after just one year.

“By contending that plaintiff suffered a non-football injury, defendants avoided their obligation to pay plaintiff $2,500,000.00 for the 2017 season, $250,000.00 roster bonus, and $580,781.00 in remaining 2016 salary,” the complaint states.

The Jets have declined to comment on the suit, which had been rumored to be in the works over the last week.

Henderson seeks damages against the team for claims of violation of New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is represented by Lawrence Lavigne of Union, N.J.

Henderson, who broke into the league as a Minnesota Viking in 2009, remains unsigned by a new team but hasn’t filed his retirement papers.

He was suspended four games by the NFL in 2009 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and the Vikings cut him in 2014 after he was arrested twice for suspected DUI.

The Jets had signed him after he took a year off from playing professional football in 2015.

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