Custodian's failure to return to work within a year justifies termination
Meyer v. William Floyd Union Free School Dist. and Gilmor, No. 07-CV-2524 (JS) (ETB)(E.D. N.Y. 09/24/08).
What it means: Under New York law, an employer may terminate an employee disabled in the course of employment after the employee has been unable to return to work for one year. The law gives employers a legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanation if the employee challenges his dismissal under employment discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Summary: A 63-year-old school custodian was injured at work and received workers' compensation benefits. A year later, he requested extended sick leave after his workers' compensation leave expired. The employer denied his request. A week later, the assistant superintendent of personnel informed the custodian that based on his attendance record, she planned to recommend his termination to the school board. The custodian sued the school district, alleging that he was wrongfully terminated in violation of the ADA, Title VII and the ADEA. The District Court dismissed the suit, finding that the employer was entitled to dismiss the custodian because he did not return to work within a year.
"No presumption of discrimination arises when an employer makes a decision explicitly provided for by Civil Service Law, [Section 71,]" the court said. Section 71 provides, in part, that an employee who has been separated from service by reason of a disability resulting from occupational injury or disease as defined by the workers' compensation laws, is entitled to a leave of absence for at least one year, unless his disability is of such a nature as to permanently incapacitate him from the performance of the duties of his position.
Because the custodian's injuries prevented him from returning to work after a year, the court reasoned that the employer was entitled to discharge him.
November 4, 2008
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