Case name: Connor v. Public Storage, Inc., No. 1:08-CV-3348-TWT (N.D. Ga. 11/16/09).
The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia granted summary judgment to the employer on a former employee's Americans with Disabilities Act and Employment Retirement Income Security Act claims.
What it means: An employer is not required to grant a disabled employee an indefinite leave of absence as an accommodation. Under the ADA, an accommodation is unreasonable if it does not allow a person to perform her job duties in the present or immediate future.
A self-storage manager injured her back moving a box at work. While she was on indefinite unpaid leave, the self-storage facility merged with another company. The manager failed to sign and return a waiver form required by the new company, and the company terminated her. At the time of her termination, the manager had been on unpaid leave for nearly two years. She filed disability discrimination claims under the ADA and ERISA, alleging the waiver and release was illegal and that she was really terminated because of her disability. The District Court found she failed to show that she could perform the essential functions of her job with or without reasonable accommodations. It rejected her argument that the company could have allowed her to remain on unpaid leave. The court explained that "an accommodation is unreasonable if it does not allow someone to perform his or her job duties in the present or immediate future." It granted summary judgment to the company, finding no genuine factual dispute existed with regard to her ADA claim.
The court rejected her ERISA discrimination claim because the subject benefits had already expired at the time of her termination and she elected not to receive coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. The court noted her workers' compensation and 401(k) benefits were unaffected by the company's decisions and she continued to receive those benefits. It pointed out there was no inference of discrimination because there was no interference with the manager's ERISA rights. A mere showing that a worker was deprived of the opportunity to accrue more benefits was not enough to rise to an inference of discrimination.
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP ForumTM homepage.
January 18, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications