FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Former Jets linebacker Erin Henderson filed an unlawful termination and disability discrimination lawsuit against the team on Friday morning.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court of New Jersey and obtained by Newsday, alleges the Jets essentially fired Henderson due to his bipolar disorder, a condition the lawsuit claims the team was aware of.
According to the lawsuit, Henderson is seeking a little more than $3.3 million in compensatory damages — his remaining 2016 salary, $2.5 million for the 2017 option the Jets never picked up, and a $250,000 roster bonus. He is also seeking unspecified punitive damages.
Henderson played in all 16 games with the Jets in 2015, but appeared in just five games, including four starts, during the 2016 season, when the Jets put him on the non-football injury list. The Jets declined to pick up his 2017 contract option in February. He is currently a free agent.
In the lawsuit, Henderson said his bipolar disorder was under the supervision of a team-hired physician, Dr. Derek Suite, and that head coach Todd Bowles and others were aware of the diagnosis.
“I have no regrets,” Bowles said Friday when asked how the situation was handled, adding that he knew “Erin very well” but has not spoken to him recently.
“It’s a personal matter,” Bowles said. “I think the team is taking care of it.”
The lawsuit also alleges that when the Jets placed Henderson on the NFI list in 2016, it made it appear to other teams that he had had an alcohol relapse, damaging his reputation. Henderson was twice arrested under DUI suspicion when he was with the Vikings and charged once with DWI in 2014, for which he was sentenced to two years of probation. As a result, the lawsuit states, Henderson was unable to land a roster spot with another team.
“That effectively ended his career,” Henderson’s lawyer, Lawrence Lavigne, said. “At this point, other teams aren’t interested in talking to him.”
Lavigne said the Jets never gave a clear reason as to why Henderson was put on the NFI list. After Henderson filed a grievance with the players’ association, the Jets said Henderson was “not fit” to play, but did not clarify, according to Lavigne.
Pressed as to whether Henderson was let go for football reasons, Bowles replied that he’d “let the legal system take care of everything.”
Lavigne said he sought a private settlement with the Jets, but the team never responded.