Employee's failure to be forthcoming undercuts discrimination claim
Case name: Maresca v. Blue Ridge Communications, No. 3:08cv1194 (M.D. Pa. 05/04/09).
The U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment for a telecommunications company in a former employee's suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
What it means:
Generally, employees cannot expect their employers to be mind readers and to anticipate the employees' needs and desires. Employers who are legitimately unaware of accommodation or reinstatement requests cannot be held liable under the ADA or related laws.
A cable installer for a telecommunications company was injured in a work-related accident. He took paid leave under the company's workers' compensation plan for almost five years. At that time, the company petitioned to remove the installer from its payroll and health insurance coverage, arguing that the installer was no longer disabled. The installer and company settled the workers' compensation claim with a lump sum payment. The installer later sued the company under the ADA and the ADEA for not hiring him back. The District Court granted summary judgment to the company. The court held that the company did not engage in an adverse employment action against the installer. Although the installer argued that he was denied reinstatement, he never directly asked for his job back nor made the company aware through other means that he wanted to return.
The court reasoned that employers cannot be held liable for denying something that was never requested. The court further considered the company's argument that the installer did not meet the ADA's definition of disability. The court concluded that the company may have regarded the installer as disabled, but in actuality he testified that he was not substantially limited in any major life activity at the time of his discharge.
The court ruled that the installer's ADEA claim failed for the same reason as the disability discrimination claim: there was no adverse action by the company.
June 29, 2009
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